Lauren’s Sol 964-965 Update: Logan’s Run? Or just a short dash…

22 April 2015 – Although we had planned a drive of up to 48 m towards “Logan’s Run” on Sol 963, the drive ended early after only 17 m due to the detection of a nearby hazard (a large rock). This was the first time in a while that we were using autonav for driving. The good news is that the hazard was detected, and the events are understood. It just means that we have a little further to go before we can start calling this a run…

Today’s plan includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations on the large rock, now named “Blackrock.” Then we’ll continue driving towards the west. The plan also includes post-drive imaging for targeting, and some ChemCam atmospheric observations. I was supposed to be the Geology Science Theme Lead tomorrow, but we’re entering restricted sols (meaning that the data from today’s drive won’t be down in time for planning tomorrow), so we decided to plan two sols today, and will not do any planning tomorrow. Let’s hope this next run goes more smoothly!

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.

Lauren’s Sol 963 Update: Making a run for it

21 April 2015 – After cruising through Artist’s Drive, Curiosity set her sights on the next pass, known as “Logan Pass.” However, the science team realized that there’s an interesting outcrop to west of “Logan Pass,” which may help us to understand how these rocks relate to the section that we investigated at the Pahrump Hills. So we decided to make a run for it, and take a quick trip over to “Logan’s Run” to image those rocks first.

The plan today is to drive further to the west, and to do some additional MAHLI wheel imaging to monitor wheel wear. Prior to the drive we’ll acquire ChemCam and Mastcam observations on the target “Apple” – a small rock of variable tones. After the drive, we’ll acquire standard post-drive imaging for context and future target selection. The plan also includes several Mastcam nighttime observations of Phobos and Deimos to investigate the opacity of the upper atmosphere and aerosol size.

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 962 Update: MAHLI Wheel Imaging

20 April 2015 – The Sol 960 drive went as planned, for a total of over 102 meters! The rover has driven far enough since the last full set of MAHLI images were acquired that it’s time to take another full set to look for more wheel wear. So my focus today as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead was on planning wheel images. MARDI images are typically taken at each wheel-imaging position as well, but all of these images were well planned strategically, so it was an easy day for me. Wheel images will be taken at 4 spots, separated by short drives to ensure that all of the wheel surfaces can be examined. This takes enough time that there wasn’t much room for other observations: Sol 962 begins with Mastcam mosaics of distant outcrops and images of the Sun and sky. After the rover stops moving, Mastcam and Navcam will take pictures of the terrain near the new rover position, and the Left Navcam will image the sun just before it sets to measure the distribution of dust in the atmosphere.

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.

Ryan’s Sol 959-961 Update: Daughter of the Sun

17 April 2015 – The short drive on sol 958 was a success, placing us at the top of a small ridge, facing an outcrop dubbed “Daughter of the Sun”. The plan for sol 959 is to do some ChemCam and Mastcam of targets “Gold” and “Espinoza”, followed by several Mastcam mosaics. The biggest mosaic will be a 26×2 stereo mosaic looking toward Logan Pass. We also have a 7×3 stereo mosaic of “Daughter of the Sun” and a 17×1 mosaic of “West Ridge”.

On sol 960 we will do a long drive after which DAN will make some measurements and we will take our standard post-drive images. Then on sol 961 ChemCam will take some calibration measurements and then Mastcam and Navcam will make several atmospheric observations.

Speaking of taking pictures of the sky, we’re starting to get data down from our observation of the Mercury sunset transit. So far all we have are thumbnails, but it looks like the full-resolution images are going to be spectacular!

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.

Ryan’s Sol 958 Update: Officially 10k!

16 April 2015 – The Sol 957 drive went well, and the rover has officially driven 10 kilometers! (Last week I announced that we had reached 10k, but that was 10k measured by how many times the wheels have spun, not how far across the surface of Mars the rover has gone. Now, no matter how you measure it, we’ve gone 10,000 meters!).

Unfortunately, we stopped with a ridge in front of us, blocking the view. So the plan for sol 958 is to do a short drive to get on top of the ridge so we can see farther to the south, allowing us to plan more effectively for future drives (and enjoy the scenery). Before the drive, we have some ChemCam passive observations of the sky to measure the composition of the atmosphere. There is also a Mastcam mosaic of an outcrop to the east, plus a high-resolution Mastcam observation of the target “Libby”.

After the drive, we will do some standard Navcam and Mastcam imaging so we can do targeted science in our immediate surroundings, plus a ChemCam calibration target observation, and a routine Mastcam “clast survey” image to measure the rocks and pebbles near the rover.

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.

Ryan’s Sol 956 Update: Mercury Transit

14 April 2015 – With the last portion of the Telegraph Peak sample delivered to SAM and analyzed by APXS, we are ready to keep driving. In the sol 956 plan, there is a quick science block in the morning, to allow the rover to take a couple of Mastcam pictures of nearby boulders called “Waucoba” and Navcam pictures to complete the 360 degree panorama of the area. After that, we have a couple hours of driving, which should take us into a new “quad” on our map of the landing site. After the drive, Curiosity will take standard post-drive images to allow us to make targeted observations in the sol 957 plan.

Later in the day there’s another science block, which will be spent making some ChemCam observations of the onboard calibration targets. Also in that science block, Mastcam will take a 3×2 mosaic in the direction of sunset. The reason for these images is that we have a special observation at sunset: Mastcam will be taking pictures of Mercury as it transits the sun, right before the sun dips below the crater rim. This will be the last chance to watch Mercury pass in front of the sun from Gale crater until 2024! Even without a transit occurring, I always like rover sunset pictures, so I’m looking forward to seeing how these observations turn out!

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.

Ryan’s Sol 953-955 Update: Dumping Telegraph Peak

13 April 2015 – Our sol 952 drive went well, and we’re very close to crossing over into a new “quad” of the map that was made before landing (meaning we will get a whole new bunch of target names to choose from!). On Saturday the team planned for a lengthy ChemCam focus test on sol 953, where we collect images of the target “Eaton Canyon” at different times of day to check the influence of temperature. We also planned a nice big 20×2 Mastcam mosaic of “Mount Saint Mary”. On sol 954, we delivered some of the “Telegraph Peak” drill sample that we have been carrying with us to the SAM instrument, and dumped the rest out on the ground to be analyzed by APXS overnight.

Today we are planning for sol 955. We have Mastcam and a ChemCam RMI of the “Eaton Canyon” target again, as well as Mastcam and passive ChemCam of the dump pile. Mastcam also has a small mosaic in the expected drive direction and a larger 10×1 mosaic of “Tucki Mountain.” Then, shortly after sunrise on sol 956 Navcam will be taking an atmospheric measurement movie and Mastcam will measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere by looking at the sun.

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 952 Update: Longer Drive

10 April 2015 – MSL drove 18 meters on Sol 951, as planned, putting the rover in position to image the terrain ahead and plan a longer drive on Sol 952. The total “wheel odometry” for the MSL mission is now over 10 km! But the total traverse distance is still less than 10 km, because the wheels sometimes slip while driving, and the wheel odometry does not take slippage into account. So we’re not quite ready to celebrate like the Mars Exploration project did when Opportunity recently completed the first extraterrestrial marathon.

The focus of scientific observation planning has been to get good images of the terrain as we continue driving, and before the Sol 952 drive the ChemCam RMI and Mastcam stereo cameras will image various targets near and far. Almost 100 meters of driving is planned, with the rover initially going to the right around the ripples shown here. After the drive, in addition to the normal images of the terrain near the rover, the Left Mastcam will acquire a full 360-degree panorama. It was an easy day for me as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead, with only the normal post-drive images in 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.

Ryan’s Sol 951 Update: 10k

09 April 2015 – We are continuing our driving tour of Artist’s Drive, and we should be reaching the 10k mark on Curiosity’s odometer in the sol 951 plan! The rover will start off the day with a targeted science block full of Mastcam observations. We are planning two Mastcam mosaics looking at the layers in the valley walls on either side of us, plus a routine “clast survey” image to document the soil and gravel at our feet, plus an observation of a portion of Mt. Sharp that is visible in the distance (which we have given the name “Tip Top Mountain”, even though we can’t see the top of the mountain from where we are), and a Mastcam image of the target “Joshua Tree.” It won’t be a purely Mastcam-filled block though: ChemCam has two long-distance Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) observations, also of “Tip Top Mountain” and “Joshua Tree.”

After the science block, the plan is to do a short drive to a location that gives us a nice long-distance view to help with drive planning. After the drive (and passing the 10k mark!), we will have our standard post-drive imaging so that tomorrow we can do targeted science again. There is also a post-drive Navcam movie to search for clouds and measure the wind direction overhead.

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.

Lauren’s Sol 950 Update: Taking in the Scenery Along Artist’s Drive

08 April 2015 – Like most tourists who visit Artist’s Drive on Earth, Curiosity is busy taking lots of photos to document the valley walls of Artist’s Drive on Mars. We are officially on the road again, and working our way through a very scenic drive.

I’m the Geology Science Theme Lead today, and today’s plan involves a pre-drive science block, a drive for hopefully ~30-40m, and some post-drive imaging for targeting. Unfortunately we have to be on a bit of a diet in terms of the total data volume that we can acquire. Back at Garden City we acquired a lot of really great data, and now we need to trim down so that we don’t acquire more data than we can downlink in a reasonable amount of time. The plan includes several large Mastcam mosaics to look at the stratigraphy exposed on the northwest and southeast valley walls, and post-drive Navcam mosaics to help select targets in the Sol 951 plan. We’ll also acquire Mastcam imaging to monitor atmospheric opacity. Tomorrow’s plan looks fairly similar to today – we’ll continue to drive and study the valley walls, taking time to appreciate the views along the way.

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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