Lauren’s Sol 1538-1540 Update: Targeted Remote Sensing

02 December 2016 – The RPs are going to take a little more time to diagnose the drill fault before we drive or use the arm again, so today’s plan is focused on targeted remote sensing. We’re still at the “Precipice” site, assessing the composition and sedimentary structures in the Murray bedrock and carrying out some long distance observations. Today’s plan includes a long distance ChemCam RMI mosaic to monitor linear features observed from HiRISE and another RMI mosaic to investigate the stratigraphy exposed in a butte called “Ireson Hill.” The plan also includes a Mastcam mosaic to search for fracture patterns in the vicinity of “Squid Cove,” and a Mastcam clast survey for change detection.

Lauren Edgar is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Ken’s Sol 1537 Update: Drill fault

01 December 2016 – Unfortunately, the much-anticipated rotary-only drilling experiment did not even start due to a drill fault that is currently being investigated. This type of drill fault appears to be unrelated to the previous short circuits during percussion, but more study is needed. So the tactical planning team had to scramble to put together a plan while the drill experts work to recover from this anomaly. Luckily, the fault did not preclude non-drilling arm activities, so we picked the bright target “Thomas Bay” for contact science. We were also able to fit a lot of remote science observations into the plan: A Navcam cloud movie, a Right Mastcam mosaic of “Squid Cove,” Mastcam measurements of dust in the atmosphere, and a small Mastcam stereo mosaic of “Baldwin Corners.” At various times of day, Navcam and Mastcam will image the ground toward and opposite the azimuth of sunset to measure the photometric (light scattering) properties of the rocks and soils near the rover. ChemCam and the Right Mastcam will also observe bedrock target “Compass Harbor” and vein targets “Bartlett Narrows” and “Birch Point.” After drill diagnostics are performed, more Mastcam dust measurements and images of “Hulls Cove” and “Big Heath” are planned. It was a busy day for me and the other MAHLI uplink leads, as we had to modify our command sequences to take images with MAHLI’s dust cover closed and find the best time to take images in full sunlight. Since the fine-grained Sebina sample was dumped, we are concerned about material blowing onto MAHLI’s lens and sticking to it. Finally, the APXS will be placed on Thomas Bay for an overnight integration.

Ken Herkenhoff is a ChemCam RMI specialist. An archive of Ken’s past updates can be read at http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news/.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Ken’s Sol 1536 Update: Drilling “Precipice”

30 November 2016 – The cross-contamination experiment and cleaning of CHIMRA went well, so we are ready to drill into the Precipice target! Past drilling activities have made use of both rotation and percussion, but percussion has caused intermittent short circuits occasionally since Sol 911, so on Sol 1536 we will test the ability of the drill to acquire a sample using rotation only, without percussion. We expect that the Precipice target is soft enough that the experiment will go well, but of course we won’t know until we try! Drilling and associated imaging will require enough power and time that additional observations could not be added to the plan.

Ken Herkenhoff is a ChemCam RMI specialist. An archive of Ken’s past updates can be read at http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news/.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Ken’s Sol 1535 Update: Cross-contaminating experiment

29 November 2016 – The current drill campaign continues to go smoothly, and the Sol 1535 plan is dominated by an experiment to see if any Sebina sample material is left inside the drill bit chamber from the previous drilling. This is motivated by the fact that we only used vibration to transfer that sample from the drill bit assembly into CHIMRA, rather than also using percussion. So it’s a “cross-contamination experiment” designed to see if the vibration didn’t do a complete job back when we first drilled Sebina. Lots of images of the sieve and other parts of CHIMRA will be taken to verify that the system is clean. These activities will take a fair amount of time and power, but we were able to squeeze a few remote science observations into the plan: ChemCam will shoot its laser at bedrock targets named “West Tremont” and “Eastern Head,” and the Right Mastcam will image the same targets. The Left Mastcam will also examine fracture patterns at “Sawyer’s Cove.” Finally, Navcam will search for clouds north of the rover. If all goes well, drilling will be planned tomorrow!

Ken Herkenhoff is a ChemCam RMI specialist. An archive of Ken’s past updates can be read at http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news/.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Lauren’s Sol 1534 Update: Preparing to drill

28 November 2016 – Curiosity had a productive Thanksgiving weekend and now we are getting ready to drill at “Precipice.” Sol 1534 begins with MAHLI imaging of the post-sieve dump pile from the previous drill sample (“Sebina”). Then we have a short science block to acquire a ChemCam passive observation and a Mastcam multispectral observation of the dump pile. In the afternoon the plan includes a CHIMRA “thwack” activity to clean out any remnants of the previous sample in order to prepare for a new one. Later in the afternoon we’ll also take a ChemCam long distance RMI mosaic to investigate a linear feature observed from HiRISE. The full drill hole is planned for Sol 1536.

Lauren Edgar is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Ryan’s Sol 1514-1515 Update: Touch and Go at Southwest Harbor

07 November 2016 – Our weekend plan was successful, with lots of good observations and a 43 meter drive. Today’s 2-sol plan starts out with a brief contact science block, during which MAHLI will observe the target “Southwest Harbor”. After that, we have a remote sensing block. ChemCam will observe some nodules in the targets “Asticou” and “Bass Harbor Head”. Mastcam will document those targets, as well as the Sol 1513 ChemCam AEGIS target. Mastcam also will take images of a laminated target called “Halls Quarry”, some nearby blocks called “Baker Island” and “Acadia”, and some cross-bedding in the target “Seal Harbor”. After the remote sensing block, the rover will drive and then do post-drive imaging and a ChemCam AEGIS observation. On Sol 1515, ChemCam has a passive sky observation, and Navcam has a couple of atmospheric monitoring observations.

Ryan Anderson is a planetary scientist and developer at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the ChemCam team on MSL.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Ken’s Sol 1511-1513 Update: Brushing Penobscot

04 November 2016 – After driving over 40 meters on Sol 1509, MSL is ready for the 3-sol weekend plan. There are a couple of good-sized outcrops in the arm workspace, so we’re planning contact science on Sol 1511. But first, Navcam will look for clouds and ChemCam will observe bedrock targets named “Pemetic,” “Jordan Pond,” and “Penobscot.” The Right Mastcam will then image Jordan Pond, Pemetic, and the ChemCam target selected by AEGIS on Sol 1509, and acquire a 9×3 mosaic of sedimentary structures southwest of the rover. Later that afternoon, the DRT will brush off Penobscot and MAHLI will image the brushed spot and Pemetic from 25, 5 and 1 centimeter. The APXS will be placed on Pemetic for a pair of integrations that evening, then placed on Penobscot for an overnight integration.

On Sol 1512, Mastcam will acquire a 5×4 stereo mosaic of the outcrop around Penobscot and a multispectral observation of the brushed spot. Next, MAHLI will image the rover wheels at 5 locations separated by small “bumps” to monitor wheel wear. Then it’s time for another drive and the post-drive imaging needed for a potential “touch and go” on Sol 1514.

Sol 1513 starts with another ChemCam observation using AEGIS and Mastcam measurements of atmospheric dust opacity. Finally, CheMin will read out the data resulting from the recent analysis of empty sample cells and MARDI will acquire another image during twilight. The rover will then get some well-earned rest and charge her batteries overnight. It was a busy morning for me and the other MAHLI/MARDI uplink leads, but we’re happy with the plan!

Ken Herkenhoff is a ChemCam RMI specialist. An archive of Ken’s past updates can be read at http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news/.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Ken’s Sol 1509-1510 Update: No contact science

02 November 2016 – MSL drove another 44 meters on Sol 1508, ending up in an area that again is partly covered by dark sand. There aren’t any very compelling targets within the arm workspace, so we decided again to forgo contact science, and focused instead on remote observations. Planning is restricted, so we are planning 2 sols today. On Sol 1509, Navcam will search for dust devils and ChemCam will acquire passive spectra of “Ellsworth,” another target in the area about 500 meters away where orbital data indicate the presence of clay minerals. ChemCam and the Right Mastcam will also observe a nearby sand target named “Sand Beach,” a vein target called “The Triad,” and a typical bedrock target dubbed “Rum Island.” The Right Mastcam will then acquire a 5×1 mosaic of Ellsworth and “McFarland Hill” and a 3×1 mosaic of nodule-rich bedrock at “Connors Nubble.” A 4×1 Left Mastcam mosaic is also planned, to survey nearby sedimentary structures and nodules. The rover will drive again later that afternoon, and images will be acquired to set us up for contact science (including brushing) this weekend. ChemCam will then observe a target selected using AEGIS, and CheMin will perform another analysis overnight. On Sol 1510, ChemCam will perform multiple calibration activities. We’re hoping that we’ll be in a good position for contact science after the Sol 1509 drive!

Ken Herkenhoff is a ChemCam RMI specialist. An archive of Ken’s past updates can be read at http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news/.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Ken’s Sol 1508 Update: A sandy spot

01 November 2016 – MSL drove almost 30 meters on Sol 1507, into an area with more dark sand than we have been seeing recently. Because only a few rocks are exposed in the arm workspace, the tactical team decided against contact science in favor of maximizing the drive distance on Sol 1508. The view ahead is good enough to allow a drive of up to 50 meters, but will require more time so we couldn’t squeeze in many pre-drive observations. Mastcam will acquire a full multispectral set of images of “Thunder Hole,” an area about 500 meters away that shows evidence for clays in data acquired from orbit. Then ChemCam and Mastcam will observe a bedrock target named “Ingraham Point.” After the drive and taking the post-drive imaging we will need to pick targets tomorrow, AEGIS will again be used to autonomously select a target and acquire ChemCam data.

Ken Herkenhoff is a ChemCam RMI specialist. An archive of Ken’s past updates can be read at http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news/.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Lauren’s Sol 1507 Update: What’s lurking in Blackwoods and Witch Hole Pond?

31 October 2016 – Happy Halloween from Mars! Over the weekend Curiosity drove 51 m further to the south, and we continue to investigate the Murray formation. I was the GSTL and KOP today (what a treat!) and we had a busy morning trying to decide whether or not to do contact science or more remote sensing. We decided to forego contact science in favor of some additional ChemCam and Mastcam observations. In the spirit of Halloween, today’s targets include “Witch Hole Pond” and “Blackwoods” to assess the chemistry of the Murray formation and to investigate some interesting sedimentary structures. We’ll also use Mastcam for environmental monitoring to measure the opacity of the atmosphere. Then Curiosity will drive about 30 m to the south, and we’ll take post-drive imaging to prepare for targeting and the potential for touch-and-go contact science tomorrow. Overnight, Curiosity will be working the graveyard shift to perform another CheMin analysis of the “Sebina” sample. Happy Halloween!

Lauren Edgar is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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