Lauren’s Sol 731 Update: Large Crater Ahead

25 August 2014 – Curiosity is back to driving! We are taking the high road around Hidden Valley to avoid potentially deep ripple fields, and making our way towards a large crater. This image from Sol 729 shows the crater just ahead of us. The Sol 731 plan includes a drive to the rim of the crater and some ChemCam and Mastcam observations to characterize the local geology. In the pre-drive targeted science block, Curiosity will investigate targets named “Beck Spring,” “Eagle Mountain,” “Furnace Creek,” and “Rainstorm.” After the drive we will acquire our standard post-drive imaging and some systematic observations. Tomorrow is a soliday (a day without planning to allow Earth and Mars schedules to sync back up), so there will be no blog, but the sol 732 blog will be posted the following day.

Lauren Edgar is an SESE Exploration Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University. An archive of Lauren’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 728-730 Update: Driving Again

22 August 2014 – After much study and discussion, the MSL team decided not to attempt to drill again into the rocks in front of the rover. On Sol 728, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe several nearby targets and the observation tray on the rover. The Sol 729 plan is dominated by the drive, with a single set of MAHLI wheel images. After the drive, on Sol 730, multiple instruments will observe the sky, ChemCam will shoot blind at the surface to the right of the rover, and MARDI will acquire another image during twilight. All of the MAHLI and MARDI activities are pretty standard, so it was an easy planning day for me as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead.

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 727 Update: Stellar Observations

21 August 2014 – While we wait for data acquired on Sol 726 to be received later tonight, the Sol 727 plan includes only remote sensing observations. Mastcam and ChemCam will observe both nearby and distant targets during the day, then will attempt to observe some stars after dusk. The goal of the star imaging is to determine how accurately the instruments can be pointed, to support planning for potential observations of comet Siding Spring when it passes very close to Mars in October. An additional benefit, if these stellar observations are successful, is that the data will be useful for checking the radiometric calibration of the cameras.

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 726 Update: Busy Uplink

20 August 2014 – We were hoping that the Sol 726 plan would include full drilling of the Bonanza King target, but the downlink from Sol 724 showed that the mini-drill activity did not complete successfully, probably because the rock moved during drilling. Planning is still restricted, so the Sol 725 plan had not yet been sent to the spacecraft when the Sol 724 data were received. After much discussion, we decided to send the Sol 725 plan to the rover, recognizing that some of the ChemCam LIBS observations would be precluded by software because the arm will be in the way. We also decided to retract the drill and take all of the MAHLI and all of the other imaging data of the mini-drill hole that were originally planned for Sol 724 but were not acquired after the drilling was aborted. So it was a busy day for me and the other people scheduled to support MAHLI uplink!

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.

Bone-a-fide?

No bones about it! Seen by Mars rover Curiosity using its MastCam, this Mars rock may look like a femur thigh bone. Mission science team members think its shape is likely sculpted by erosion, either wind or water. If life ever existed on Mars, scientists expect that it would be small simple life forms called microbes. Mars likely never had enough oxygen in its atmosphere and elsewhere to support more complex organisms. Thus, large fossils are not likely.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Bone-shaped rock on Mars.

Ryan’s Sol 725 Update: Zapping Targets

19 August 2014 – We are still looking forward to data from sol 724’s mini-drill experiment, and since we don’t have that yet, we can’t do the full drill in the sol 725 plan. So instead, we are doing a remote sensing day on sol 725, which means lots of Mastcam and ChemCam. ChemCam will be zapping four targets: the tailings from the mini-drill on “Bonanza King”, plus targets “Carrara,” “Perdido,” and “Lee Flat”. Mastcam will be taking documentation images of those targets, plus a mosaic of the target “Lone Pine” and a photometry experiment to measure how sunlight reflects from the martian soil at different illumination angles. There are also some Mastcam images of the sun to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, and Navcam will be looking for clouds over Mount Sharp. Meanwhile, CheMin will be getting ready to ingest some of the drilled rock powder by rotating an empty analysis cell into position.

While we wait for pictures of our mini-drill results, I highly recommend that you take a look at this post on Curiosity’s wheel damage by Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society. I found it useful even as a MSL team member because it distills a lot of information into one place.

Ryan Anderson is a member of the ChemCam team and the current Shoemaker Postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, AZ. Ryan also writes for the American Geophysical Union’s blogosphere in The Martian Chronicles.

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 724 Update: Mini-Drill Hole

18 August 2014 – Everything went well over the weekend, and the drill target seems to be nice and stable, so for the Sol 724 plan, Curiosity will do a “mini-drill” into Bonanza King. This activity is complicated enough that there wasn’t much of a chance to do any science observations other than those that support the drilling, except for standard DAN and REMS environmental monitoring. The mini-drill activity does basically what it sounds like: it drills just a little bit into the target. We do this to make sure the rock characteristics are safe for a full-depth drill hole. One step closer to a 4th full drill hole on Mars!

Ryan Anderson is a member of the ChemCam team and the current Shoemaker Postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, AZ. Ryan also writes for the American Geophysical Union’s blogosphere in The Martian Chronicles.

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 721 Update: Bonanza King

16 August 2014 – We’re gearing up for our fourth drill hole on Mars! For the sol 721 plan, we have a long block of time dedicated thoroughly analyzing the drill target Bonanza King. During this block, we will analyze 25 points on the target with ChemCam in a 5×5 grid, and follow up with Mastcam images of Bonanza King using multiple different filters (we call images like this that use multiple different filters multispectral images). Mastcam will also take multispectral images of targets Millers Spring and Smokey, plus a mosaic of the south wall of Hidden Valley to cover an area that previous mosaics did not.

Sol 722 will be dedicated to contact science on the drill target, with MAHLI images and APXS measurements. The rover will also collect data to make sure that it is in a stable location for drilling, brush the drill target, and test placing the drill on the target and pre-loading it. Pre-loading is another term for “pushing” and is necessary for the drill to work: If you have ever done home improvements and had to drill into wood, you know that you have to push to get the drill bit to bite into the wood. The same idea applies to Curiosity’s drill, and we do the pre-load test to make sure the target doesn’t move when the rover pushes on it.

After the complicated sol 721 and 722 plans, sol 723 will be a simple sol with just some environmental monitoring.

Ryan Anderson is a member of the ChemCam team and the current Shoemaker Postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, AZ. Ryan also writes for the American Geophysical Union’s blogosphere in The Martian Chronicles.

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 720 Update: Looking for Clouds

14 August 2014 – Today is a restricted sol, so we are planning a number of untargeted observations. Curiosity should have bumped on Sol 719 to put the condensed drilling target Bonanza King in the work volume, and we are waiting for those data to come down. The Sol 720 plan includes a Mastcam and Navcam photometry experiment to characterize differences in lighting over the same region at different times of day, and a ChemCam blind observation. The plan also includes a couple of ChemCam RMI mosaics to characterize the local geology, and Mastcam imaging to monitor the sand ripples in Hidden Valley. There are also several environmental monitoring activities, including standard REMS and RAD observations, Navcam imaging to look for any clouds related to Mt. Sharp, and Navcam imaging to search for dust devils.

Lauren Edgar is an SESE Exploration Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University. An archive of Lauren’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 719 Update: Second Anniversary Webcast

13 August 2014 – Curiosity is at the northern end of Hidden Valley, and we are preparing for condensed drilling on the target Bonanza King. Condensed drilling means that we will attempt to acquire a drilled sample with high efficiency – including bumping to the target, characterizing the target, drilling and transferring the sample. Bonanza King is part of a light-toned, potentially fine-grained outcrop. When Curiosity drove over Bonzana King on a previous sol, we exposed a fresh rock face. The plan today includes several ChemCam observations to characterize the drill target, a bump to the drill location, and some post-drive imaging to prepare for contact science.

In celebration of the 2nd anniversary of the successful landing on Mars, Ashwin Vasavada (MSL Deputy Project Scientist) will be giving public lectures on Thursday and Friday. If you can’t travel to Pasadena for either of the lectures, they will be broadcast on the web.

Lauren Edgar is an SESE Exploration Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University. An archive of Lauren’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.

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