Ken’s Sol 1721 Update: An easier planning day

8 June 2017 – MSL drove 26 meters on Sol 1720, as planned, to a location with blocks of bedrock in the arm workspace. Because the rover climbed another 3 meters in elevation, contact science has top priority for today’s plan, with driving next in priority. One of our strategic goals is to measure the chemistry of Murray formation rocks using APXS at elevation intervals of no more than 5 meters. So the GEO science theme group (STG) selected a smooth, typical Murray bedrock target named “Fawn Pond” as the top priority for contact science (APXS and MAHLI observations), and planned ChemCam and Right Mastcam observations of nearby target “Kief Pond.” The GEO plan also includes a 6×2 Right Mastcam mosaic to investigate sedimentary structures at “Arey Cove” and standard post-drive imaging. The ENV STG requested non-standard RAD activities that required lengthening the post-drive science block. Despite concerns about power, all of these science activities fit nicely into the plan! I’m SOWG Chair today for the third day in a row, and it’s been the easiest shift so far: There were no delays in processing the new data needed for planning this morning, and the volume of data expected to be returned in time for planning tomorrow is comfortably larger that it was on Sols 1719 and 1720.

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 1719 Update: Wait and Hurry Up!

6 June 2017 – Today was an interesting day of planning: because of an issue with the computer system responsible for processing data once it is received on Earth, Curiosity’s images and other data from Sol 1718 didn’t arrive until well into today’s planning. That meant that we had to keep the plan simple and respond rapidly once the data did arrive. It also meant that we had plenty of time to choose our favorite target names from the list!

Once the data started rolling in, we quickly chose a nice piece of bedrock in front of the rover for APXS and MAHLI to analyze and gave it the target name “Aunt Betsey’s Brook”. We also planned a ChemCam observation of a flaky layered rock called “Wonsqueak Harbor” and a small Mastcam mosaic of a block of layered bedrock called “Little Round Pond”. After that, Curiosity will drive about 16 meters and collect post-drive imaging for targeting. After the drive we’ll also take a Mastcam image of the ground near the rover (part of the ongoing campaign to systematically look at the terrain we’re driving over), Mastcam images of the sun and the distant crater rim to study dust in the atmosphere, and an automatically targeted ChemCam observation. The plan will wrap up with the usual evening MARDI image of the ground under our wheels.

In the end, despite the delay in planning, we managed to put together the plan and turn it in early! We joked that we can’t keep being so efficient every day or else we’ll give the impression that we don’t need our full planning time anymore!

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 1714 Update: Let’s try that again

1 June 2017 – Unfortunately the Sol 1713 activities were not uplinked due to an issue at the DSN station, so today’s plan is focused on recovering the activities that were planned yesterday. The good news is that we’ll be in the same location for the start of the weekend plan, so we’ll be able to add some additional contact science targets at this interesting site.

I was the SOWG Chair today, and it was a pretty straightforward planning day since it was mostly a repeat of yesterday! The plan kicks off with Mastcam mosaics of “The Whitecap,” “Trap Rock,” and “Pond Island” to document some nearby sedimentary structures. Then ChemCam will target “Heron Island” and “McNeil Point” to investigate variations in chemistry within the darker gray rocks in this area. We’ll also acquire a ChemCam RMI to assess the grain size and stratification at “Sols Cliff.” Then Navcam will carry out a dust devil survey to monitor atmospheric activity. Slightly later in the afternoon, we’ll acquire a Mastcam mosaic to document the contact science target “Prays Brook” and surrounding rocks, and we’ll take a multispectral observation on “Heron Island.” The meat of the plan lies in the contact science: APXS and MAHLI observations on “Berry Cove” and “Heron Island” to assess the darker gray rocks both with and without nodules, as well as a dog’s eye MAHLI mosaic along “Prays Brook” to characterize the contact between the dark gray rocks and the underlying typical Murray formation. It’s a juicy plan so I hope it all goes smoothly this time, and we’re looking forward to more contact science tomorrow before we hit the road to Vera Rubin Ridge.

For more information about Curiosity’s investigation of the Murray formation and the ancient lake environments that it records, check out this recent press release:

by Lauren Edgar

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 1691 Update: Stopped Short at Green Nubble

8 May 2017 – The weekend drive stopped a little bit short of the target, but that’s ok because it put the rover in reach of some interesting cross-bedded rocks. We decided to do a “touch and go” plan for Sol 1691, quickly analyzing the rocks in front of us and then continuing on to the original drive destination.

The plan starts off with MAHLI observations of the targets “Ike’s Point” and “King’s Point”. ChemCam will then analyze the target “Green Nubble” and Mastcam will take a documentation image of the same target. Mastcam will also document the auto-targeted ChemCam observation from the weekend plan and take a few frames to connect the workspace and drive direction images. Finally, Mastcam has a small mosaic of “Androscoggin River”. After that, the rover will do a short drive followed by post-drive imaging, an auto-targeted ChemCam observation, and a MARDI image of the ground under our wheels.

In the morning of Sol 1692 Mastcam will make its first of three attempts at imaging Mars’ moon Phobos passing in front of the sun, which allows us to refine our understanding of its orbit. The Phobos transit observation will be followed by Mastcam and Navcam observations to measure dust in the atmosphere, as well as a couple of Navcam movies to look for clouds.

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 & Lauren’s Sol 1678 Update: A smooth planning day

25 April 2017 – MSL drove another 33 meters on Sol 1677, and again is surrounded by rocky outcrops partly covered by dark sand. Although Rover Planner support was available for “touch and go” contact science, the GEO science theme group decided that the limited reachable outcrop did not warrant contact science, and that driving is the top priority for this plan. APXS data were successfully acquired on Sol 1677, so are not urgently needed in this new location. The plan for Sol 1678 therefore focuses on remote sensing, with ChemCam 10×1 rasters on “Hancock Point,” a darker exposure of bedrock, and “Crocker Mountain,” a more normal-looking bedrock exposure. Mastcam context imaging of these targets will be followed by mosaics of nearby exposures that show sedimentary structures. Because the drive plan is likely to end up with bedrock in the arm workspace, we added a 3×2 Left Mastcam mosaic of the workspace to the post-drive imaging block, in case we can plan a touch and go tomorrow. Two ChemCam AEGIS activities and a Navcam zenith movie are planned after the drive. Thanks to the efficient work done by the science theme groups, planning went very smoothly today, making it an easy day for me as SOWG Chair.

by Ken Herkenhoff and Lauren Edgar

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.

Roger’s Sol 1671 Update: More Rocks Out the Front Window

17 April 2017 – Today I covered the ChemCam Payload Element Lead (PEL) role for this first Monday after Easter. Normally the ChemCam team starts Mondays with a telephone tag-up as we hand over operations between the French and US portions of the team. We alternate doing ChemCam operations from week to week, and the Monday teleconferences are the switching point where we convey to the incoming team any useful information that happened the previous week. However, as our French colleagues celebrate Easter a little longer than we do (they have Monday off), we skipped the usual phone tag-up, and traded the usual information by e-mail.

Overall, the French part of the ChemCam team has somewhat more of a challenge, as the daytime operations at JPL in California end up being during the evening and nighttime in France. I attended operations in Toulouse one time and I can verify that operations run very late. French law mandates that employers must provide dinners for anyone who must work late. The operations center at CNES is up to standards with gourmet pre-packaged French cuisine, a small perk for having to work at night. Overall, I have a lot of respect for the dedicated late-night team in France (of course, also for the daytime teams in the US).

Meanwhile, back on Mars, Curiosity nailed the 34 meter drive to another rock exposure identified in orbital images. Ever since we observed possible mud cracks at Old Soaker the rover team has been pursuing the idea that Curiosity is exploring strata that represent occasional dry-lake periods. As the rover drives further from the dunes, it is nice to be seeing more and more interesting rocks out the front window. The main activities in the plan that we’re sending up to the rover today include a 9×7 Mastcam mosaic of the rock outcrop “Jellison Cove”, MAHLI, APXS, and ChemCam on “Deer Isle”, and a second ChemCam analysis of “Calf Island”.

Roger Wiens, ChemCam Principal Investigator

Ryan and Michael’s Sol 1668-1670 Update: Diving into (analysis of) Moosehead Lake

14 April 2017 – Our latest drive put us in position in front of the interesting “Moosehead Lake” outcrop with lots of veins and grey patches: plenty to keep Curiosity busy over the weekend! The Sol 1668 plan starts off with a nice long science block. ChemCam has observations of targets “Sheldrake Island”, “Crabtree Neck”, “Waukeah Neck”, “Morancy Stream” and “Ogden Point”. This is followed by a dust devil survey and several Mastcam mosaics. These include one covering Moosehead Lake, a few frames to extend the coverage of the area near the rover, and a big 22 frame mosaic of the outcrop at our next stop. Mastcam will also take a picture of the ChemCam auto-targeted location from after the drive. After that MAHLI will take pictures of the targets “Morancy Stream” and “Sheldrake Island” and then APXS will analyze those two targets.

On Sol 1669, we’ll retract the arm and drive, followed by post-drive imaging and a MARDI observation in the evening. On Sol 1670, there is a short morning block of atmospheric observations and a longer afternoon block containing a Mastcam image of the rover deck, another dust devil observation, and an auto-targeted ChemCam observation. We will wrap up Sol 1670 with some observations of the dust in the atmosphere to compare with the morning.

Speaking of atmospheric observations, let’s do a recap of the environmental science we’ve done this week. Of course Curiosity acquired the usual REMS and DAN measurements as well as Navcam cloud observation movies throughout the week. The pointing direction of the cloud movies was shifted from north-facing to south-facing to avoid the sun. The movies will remain pointed towards the south until just after the southern hemisphere spring equinox in May 2018. As mentioned above, there was a Navcam dust devil survey on Sol 1670, as well as one earlier in the week on sol 1668. Also captured earlier this week in ENV planning was a ChemCam passive sky observation on sol 1665 that had been previously dropped twice from the plan due to the DSN outage two weeks ago and sun safety issues last week. Planning passive sky observations is difficult: they are among the most time consuming and time constrained atmospheric observations. This is because the observation requires ChemCam to take passive spectra of the sky at two different azimuths and ChemCam must avoid the sun’s path as it slews between those locations. This can be difficult near equinoxes when the sun passes directly overhead!

by Ryan Anderson and Michael Battalio

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 1666-1667 Update: Moosehead Lake

12 April 2017 – The Sol 1664 drive was halted after the rover had driven less than 2 meters because the angle of the left bogie slightly exceeded the suspension limit. Such limits are routinely set based on the results of detailed modeling of the vehicle’s response to the terrain, so that unexpected conditions will automatically cause the rover to stop and wait for further instructions. Analysis of the vehicle’s orientation this morning showed nothing that concerned the mobility team, so a drive is planned for Sol 1666. Before the drive, ChemCam and Right Mastcam will observe a vein target named “Ingalls Island,” a nearby outcrop target dubbed “Yellow Island,” and color boundary targets called “Bunker Cove” and “Cromwell Cove.” Mastcam will then acquire a multispectral observation of Moosehead Lake, the drive goal. After the drive and usual post-drive imaging, the arm will be unstowed for more drill diagnostic tests and moved out of the way for Navcam and Left Mastcam imaging of the arm workspace, to support planning on Friday. Later that afternoon, Mastcam will measure dust in the atmosphere, Navcam will search for clouds, and AEGIS will acquire a ChemCam observation of an autonomously-selected target.

The Sol 1667 plan starts with Navcam searches for dust devils and clouds above the horizon. In the afternoon, ChemCam will acquire calibration data. The rover will then get some sleep before what could be a busy weekend 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 1664-1665 Update: Keep on driving

10 April 2017 – MSL drove about 24 meters on Sol 1662, and another drive is planned for Sol 1664. Before the drive, lots of targeted remote sensing is planned: ChemCam and Right Mastcam will observe a bright rock named “Peaks Island,” an exposure of bedding dubbed “Great Wass Island,” a sand ripple called “Baldpate Mountain,” and an interesting rock that was selected by AEGIS after the Sol 1662 drive, now named “Chebeague Island.” Mastcam will also acquire a stereo mosaic of outcrops toward the south, in the direction of the planned drive.

Planning is restricted this week, so two sols were planned today. Untargeted remote sensing planned for Sol 1665 includes passive (no laser) ChemCam sky observations and two ground LIBS targets selected using the AEGIS software. Navcam will then search for dust devils and clouds before the rover rests in preparation for Wednesday’s 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 1661-1663 Update: DAN has been busy

8 April 2017 – Our drive away from the “Ogunquit Beach” sand dune location went well, taking us about 35 meters to the southwest and putting us in a good location to continue measuring the composition of the bedrock as we drive up Mt. Sharp. The Sol 1661 plan starts out with a Mastcam mosaic of “Old Speck Mountain” and some Navcam cloud detection observations. ChemCam will then analyze the targets “Blueberry Mountain,” “Brewer Mountain,” and “Mud Hole” with Mastcam documentation images for each target. I also requested some long distance ChemCam images of a cliff face on Mt. Sharp. I wasn’t able to participate in planning today, so we will see if the instructions I left the uplink team were correct!

Once the remote sensing is done, MAHLI will take some pictures of the targets “Paradise Hill” and “Treasure Island”. APXS will then analyze both targets, with an overnight analysis of Treasure Island. On Sol 1662 we will drive again, followed by an autonomously targeted ChemCam observation, and on sol 1663 Curiosity will have a pretty easy day, with some Mastcam atmospheric dust measurements and a MARDI image of the ground beneath the rover.

Throughout this week, the environmental science group has been working to recover the activities that were lost last weekend because of the Deep Space Network outage, such as the morning imaging suite and 15-frame Navcam dust devil movie, while also continuing the normal cadence of monitoring activities. Earlier in the week, a special DAN active measurement was acquired over the sand of “Ogunquit Beach”. By turning the rover in place and backing up onto the dune, we placed the field of view of DAN’s active neutron experiment, which is centered between the rear two wheels, right on the dune sand. DAN active experiments are performed after each rover position change (usually immediately after a drive), but in this case, the measurement was taken just before the rover departed Ogunquit Beach. In a DAN active measurement, neutrons are fired in all directions by the Pulse Neutron Generator, and some neutrons scattered by the soil under the rover return to the DAN detectors. This measurement will allow DAN to compare the amount of hydrogen measured at Namib Dune around sol 1243 to the conditions at Ogunquit Beach.

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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