Mars Through Time High School Teacher Workshop

With support from ChemCam, the Lunar and Planetary Institute will be hosting a workshop July 13-16, 2015 in Houston, TX. Mars Through Time is a four day, high school teacher professional development training focusing on Mars science and exploration and the nature and process of science. Participants explore the relationship between technology and science using the history of Mars exploration as an example. Participants also learn about and discuss the nature and process of science with each other and invited speakers. Registration is free and travel stipends are available. For more information, and to apply, interested teachers should visit the workshop webpage. Questions should be directed to Andy Shaner, shaner@lpi.usra.edu or 281-486-2163. Materials and resources from the 2014 Mars Through Time training can be viewed here.

Ken’s Sol 937-938 Update: Veinfest

25 March 2015 – Interest in the dark and bright veins continues to be high, so the Sol 937 plan is dominated by observations of these features. But first, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe the unsieved Telegraph Peak drill sample dump pile. Ryan is ChemCam science uplink lead today, and I helped him plan ChemCam rasters on the dump pile and the dark material just right of center in this image. APXS and MAHLI will also continue the investigation of the vein materials, including a new target named “Live Oak Canyon.” On Sol 938, ChemCam will measure 3 different targets, then Mastcam will acquire a large mosaic of the ridge southeast of the rover.

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.

A Mars Marathon!

24 March 2015 – With the drive on Sol 3968, Opportunity has traveled more than a marathon’s distance on the surface of Mars! This is the first time that any spacecraft has exceeded the 42.195 kilometers of a marathon on the surface of another world. It has taken more than 11 years, and there have been some significant rest stops along the way (stopping to explore the geology exposed in impact craters along the traverse), but it is a truly extraordinary accomplishment.

I’m the Engineering Camera Payload Uplink Lead this week, which means that I’m responsible for sending the commands to the Navigation cameras and front and rear Hazard cameras. This Navcam mosaic from Sol 3968 shows the view at the finish line of our marathon. “Spirit of St. Louis” crater is off to the left, with “Marathon Valley” in the distance, and the current plan is to investigate the bright “Athens” outcrop on the right side of the mosaic.

As Project Manager John Callas describes it, “this achievement, for the first time, demonstrates that our species is capable of an enterprise of human scale in duration, in distance, and in discovery, on the surface of another world.” Congratulations to everyone who has been a part of this remarkable mission.

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 935-936 Update: More Contact Science at Garden City

23 March 2015 – Last Friday we planned some additional contact science at “Garden City.” Unfortunately, an error resulted in the loss of contact science during Sols 931-933. A change needed in commanding is understood, and the rover is healthy and has not moved, so we’ll be recovering that science this week.

Today’s two-sol plan looks pretty similar to what we had planned for the weekend. Curiosity is still investigating the dark and light portions of the veins at ”Garden City.” The plan includes MAHLI and APXS on the veins, and some ChemCam and Mastcam observations to look for variations in chemistry. Curiosity will also perform a number of environmental monitoring activities to measure atmospheric composition and opacity, and search for dust devils. Although we were disappointed that the weekend plan didn’t execute as we had hoped, the images that we’ve received so far show that this is a complicated outcrop and very deserving of additional investigations!

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 932-934 Update: What’s Growing in Garden City

20 March 2015 – While many of us in the northern hemisphere are celebrating the first day of spring, Curiosity is busy tending to her “Garden City.” Sadly there are no flowers in sight, but the outcrop contains some beautiful veins. This MAHLI image from Sol 930 shows some of the complex relationships that we’re trying to sort out. I’ve been the Geology Science Theme Lead this week and Ken Herkenhoff has been the SOWG Chair and MAHLI PUL, so the team here at the USGS has been very involved in planning contact science at this location.

Today we’re planning 3 sols, during which Curiosity will acquire MAHLI and APXS on both the dark and light portions of these veins to better understand their texture and composition. We’ll also acquire a ChemCam transect across one of the veins, to look for variations in chemistry. And Curiosity will stay busy overnight, working on the third CheMin analysis of the “Telegraph Peak” sample. In addition to these observations, Curiosity will perform a number of environmental monitoring activities to measure atmospheric composition and opacity, and search for dust devils. Next week we’ll have to decide if we want to stay here at “Garden City” for further analyses, or continue driving down “Artist’s Drive.”

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 930-931 Update: Arm Science

18 March 2015 – The MAHLI team was well prepared for contact science today, but had to scramble to react to news early this morning that the right front wheel is perched on a small rock and therefore is not in a safe position for arm contact with the surface. We had originally planned to brush a potential APXS target with the Dust Removal Tool (DRT) and take MAHLI images of the brushed spot. But the DRT activity had to be deleted, and MAHLI reconnaissance imaging of another potential APXS target added to the plan. This made for a hectic morning for me and the other MAHLI uplink leads, but we are happy with how the plan turned out. On Sol 930, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe an outcrop target named “Swasey” before the arm will be used to acquire MAHLI images of the bright and dark rocks shown in the lower left part of this image. These MAHLI images will be useful in planning future scientific observations. The APXS will then be placed close to a dark patch for overnight integration. None of the MAHLI or APXS activities includes surface contact, so they are safe even with the rock under the right front wheel. Early on the morning of Sol 931, the left Navcam will be used to search for dust devils and clouds as part of an ongoing experiment to determine how these atmospheric phenomena vary with time of day. Mastcam images of the terrain ahead are planned around noon, followed by MAHLI imaging of another APXS target late in the afternoon. Then the APXS will hover near the surface for another overnight integration. Planning is “restricted” this week, so the next tactical planning will occur on Friday.

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 928-929 Update: Checking Out Garden City

16 March 2015 – Over the weekend, Curiosity bumped closer to the target “Garden City” located in “Artist’s Drive.” “Garden City” is an intriguing target because it contains a lot of really big veins, captured here in this Mastcam image from Sol 926.

Today’s plan is focused on characterizing “Garden City” and getting ready for contact science on Wednesday. The plan includes ChemCam observations on the targets “Ouray” and “Hoskinnini” to characterize the composition of the light and dark parts of the veins, as well as several Mastcam multispectral observations. There are also several Navcam and Mastcam activities to monitor atmospheric opacity and search for dust devils. Furthermore, this plan includes several important SAM activities to prepare for and analyze the previously acquired “Telegraph Peak” sample.

I’ll be the Geology Science Theme Lead on Wednesday so I dialed in to the planning meetings to prepare for what is shaping up to be a very busy day of arm activities!

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 924-927 Update: Garden City Here we Come!

13 March 2015 – Yesterday was a challenging day on Mars and Earth. On Mars, the rover stopped its drive early because it detected that its wheels were slipping in the sand, so we weren’t where we expected to be and we had to adjust our observations accordingly. At the same time on Earth, some network issues at JPL made it difficult for many of us to connect to the tools that we use to do our planning. Luckily those issues didn’t start up until the planning for Sol 924 was pretty far along, so we were still able to get a good plan put together.

On sol 924, ChemCam analyzed a layered rock target called “Hennefer”, and Mastcam took a supporting image. Mastcam also took a mosaic of the outcrop we are heading toward, called “Garden City”, as well as a small mosaic of the sand ripple (called “Tropic Ripple”) near where we stopped, and a mosaic of a tiny crater that we called “Hemicyon Basin.”

After that, the rover continued on its drive toward Garden City. After the drive, ChemCam did a calibration measurement, MAHLI took an image from its stowed position, and Mastcam took a 2×1 mosaic looking back across the floor of Gale crater toward the “Peace Vallis” alluvial fan. Mastcam and Navcam also had some atmospheric observations, and Mastcam and Navcam also took some standard post-drive mosaics.

This morning things were a lot smoother. We started off planning ogling the beautiful images of the Garden City outcrop, which is cris-crossed with erosion resistant ridges. The plan for sol 925 is to do a ChemCam analysis and associated Mastcam mosaic on one of the nearby ridges called “San Timoteo”, along with a Mastcam stereo mosaic of Garden City. Later in the day, ChemCam has an observation of a dark rock to test some focusing settings on a very dark target. Then CheMin will do an overnight analysis on the sample that it is currently working on.

On the morning of sol 926m ChemCam has some passive observations of the sky, and Mastcam and Navcam also have some atmospheric measurements. Then the rover will do a short drive toward Garden City, followed by standard imaging plus some extra Navcams of the hill that is rising above us.

Finally on sol 927, Mastcam and Navcam have some more atmospheric measurements.

Next week many of us on the science team will be at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, but we will also be eagerly checking in on what Curiosity is doing at the tantalizing Garden City outcrop.

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 923 Update: Getting out of Dodge

11 March 2015 – The plan for today, as our SOWG (Science Operations Working Group) chair put it, is to “get out of Dodge”! We will be driving to a location where we can do “full MAHLI wheel imaging” in the coming sols.

During the drive, the rover will stop long enough for Mastcam to get an image of the drill tailings to document where we placed the APXS overnight. We’ll also get a Mastcam image of a wind-blown ripple to see what the grain sizes are. After the drive, we have Mastcam observations of the candidate contact science target “Garden City” along with routine post-drive images from Navcam. There will also be several standard environmental monitoring measurements.

Tomorrow I’m on duty as the “Keeper of the Plan” for the geology and mineralogy group and it looks like there will be time for lots of remote sensing science from our new location, so it should be a busy day!

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 922 Update: Arm in Action

10 March 2015 – Good news! We’re allowed to use the arm again! The engineers have done all the diagnostics needed, and so today’s plan was dominated by arm activities for science.

In the morning of sol 922, there is a short science block during which ChemCam and Mastcam will analyze the target “Whitmore_2” on the “Newspaper rock” outcrop to see if it is similar to the “Whale Rock” outcrop that we studied previously. After that, the rover will transfer some of the drill sample that it collected before the arm fault into CheMin. Once the sample is inside CheMin and ready to be analyzed overnight to figure out what minerals it contains, the arm will place APXS on the pile of tailings near the drill hole. This will allow APXS to do an overnight measurement of the chemical composition of the tailings pile.

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.

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