Ken’s Sol 819 Update: Late Planning

24 November 2014 – The difficult 35-meter drive planned for Sol 817 went perfectly, placing the rover in position for arm activities on the Alexander Hills outcrop. We also received good news from ChemCam: test images acquired on Sol 816 showed that the instrument can still acquire data without using the autofocus laser. More ChemCam tests were planned today. Sol 819 planning started 3 hours later than usual, giving me extra time to prepare for my MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead shift this morning. We had lots of interesting rocks to choose from, and decided to brush a target dubbed “Mescal.” After taking MAHLI images, the APXS will be placed on the same target for a long overnight integration to measure its elemental chemistry. We also planned MAHLI images of targets “Puente” and “Cajon,” as well as Mastcam mosaics including these and other targets of interest.

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.

Thanksgiving on Mars: A ChemCam Update from PI Roger Wiens

21 November 2014 – We just received our first data from ChemCam after a two-week break in the action for our instrument. Two weeks ago on Friday, data we received from the rover earlier in the week showed that the optical power on our continuous wave laser was dropping steadily each time it was turned on. This is not the main laser we use to zap rocks and soils. Rather, it is a little laser quite like that in a laser pointer. Typically we turn it on while we adjust the focus of the telescope. A little sensor at the back of the telescope records the red light reflected back from the target, and when the intensity of the light collected by the telescope is greatest, that is determined to be the best focus position. Over the course of the week, the signal had dropped from about 8 milliWatts to about 1 milliWatt. That was still good enough to focus the telescope, but if it dropped much more we would not be able to focus using this laser. So we de-activated ChemCam for about ten days while we considered our options.

Fortunately, ChemCam is quite a versatile instrument and we have been considering two alternative methods for focusing the instrument. One method would involve using the main LIBS laser to determine the focus. When the instrument is in focus it yields stronger signals than when it is out of focus. This was the subject of a master’s degree thesis that one of our team members wrote in 2008. The second method involves optimizing the focus based on the entropy, or contrast, of the pixels in the RMI image. (Most consumer cameras focus themselves in a similar fasion.) Our team has spent the last several days taking data with a surrogate ChemCam instrument in the laboratory and analyzing previously-obtained data from ChemCam on Mars to consider these options. Over the next few weeks our software engineer will work to code one of these focus methods and a test engineer will begin testing the new code.

In the meantime, we have released the instrument to be used without the focus laser. We get a good estimate of the distance to our targets from the Navcam images. In the near term we will take data at several focus positions centered on this “distance seed.” This will allow us to get new data while we are waiting on the software upgrade. This will be a little more tedious, but the team is happy to be back to getting data.

As we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, here on Earth, our entire team is very thankful that in spite of the loss of our little focus laser, ChemCam has a new lease on life. We hope we can keep exploring Mars for years to come.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Dr. Roger Wiens is a planetary scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Principal Investigator for the ChemCam instrument on the Curiosity rover.

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 816-818 Update: Leaving Book Cliffs

Curiosity investigating “Topanga.”

21 November 2014 – Over the weekend 3-sol plan, Curiosity will wrap up the investigation at Book Cliffs and drive toward Alexander Hills and Carnivore Canyon. It’s been a great week at Book Cliffs, and Curiosity acquired a lot of exciting data. We analyzed 3 fresh surfaces at Book Cliffs, at the lower, middle and upper parts of the outcrop. This Navcam image from Sol 815 shows the arm extended while Curiosity was investigating the target “Topanga”. The brush spots at “Punchbowl” and “Afton Canyon” are also visible at the bottom middle and lower right sides of the image. In the weekend plan, Curiosity will acquire Mastcam multispectral images and ChemCam passive observations of the three brush spots. There are also several Navcam and ChemCam activities to monitor the atmosphere and search for clouds. Then Curiosity will drive toward Alexander Hills and Carnivore Canyon, and acquire standard post-drive imaging to prepare for contact science next week!

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 815 Update: Another busy day at Book Cliffs

20 November 2014 – Over the past few sols Curiosity has been investigating the Book Cliffs outcrop at the Pahrump Hills. On Sol 814, Curiosity brushed off the dust at “Afton Canyon” as seen in this MAHLI image. Today’s plan is focused on characterizing the upper part of Book Cliffs. ChemCam is back in action after a brief stand down due to degradation of the instrument’s smaller laser used for focusing. The plan today includes a ChemCam passive observation of the sky and a focus test on a small pebble. We will also use the Dust Removal Tool to clear off a fresh surface at the target “Topanga” followed by MAHLI and APXS on that surface. We’re also planning to acquire MAHLI images on the targets “Goblin_Valley” and “Jail_Canyon.” Another busy day on Mars! We’ve been delivering some pretty complicated plans lately, but thanks to a very talented operations team, everything is going well and the data looks great.

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 814 Update: More Contact Science and Book Cliffs

19 November 2014 – Curiosity is still investigating the Book Cliffs outcrop on our second pass at the Pahrump Hills. To learn more about Curiosity’s activities at the Pahrump Hills, check out this recent press release. I’m on duty as the Geology and Mineralogy Science Theme Lead again today. It turns out that I was also on duty when we were at Book Cliffs on the first pass, so it’s starting to feel a little like Groundhog Day. But it’s an interesting outcrop, and we’ve been able to acquire a lot of great data here. Yesterday we analyzed the lower part of the outcrop (as seen in this Front Hazcam image), and today is focused on the middle part of the outcrop. We will use the Dust Removal Tool to clear off a fresh surface at a target named “Afton Canyon,” and then we’ll use MAHLI and APXS to study the sedimentary structures and chemistry. We’re also planning what we call a “dog’s eye mosaic” of the target “Anaverde,” meaning that we’ll acquire a series of MAHLI images across a vertical face – sticking our nose right in there to get a good view. In this plan Curiosity will also image part of upper Book Cliffs at the target “Topanga” to prepare for DRT placement on that area tomorrow.

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 813 Update: Brushing off the dust at Book Cliffs

18 November 2014 – After a successful drive on Sol 812, Curiosity is well positioned for contact science at the Book Cliffs outcrop. We’ve been taking some really interesting MAHLI images lately, including this one from Sol 810 of the target “Potatoe” ). The plan today is to use the Dust Removal Tool to clear off a fresh surface at the lower part of Book Cliffs (at a target named “Punchbowl”), and then characterize the cleared surface using the MAHLI and APXS instruments. We’ll acquire MAHLI images under different lighting conditions to study the rock textures, and APXS will provide information about the bulk chemical composition of the target. We’ll also acquire MAHLI images of the target “Old Dad Mountain,” which is a slightly more resistant part of the lower outcrop. The plan also includes imaging to prepare for possible contact science on the upper part of Book Cliffs, and a Navcam observation to monitor atmospheric activity above Mount Sharp. Looking forward to more contact science tomorrow!

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 812 Update: Booking it back to Book Cliffs

17 November 2014 – Curiosity continues to investigate the Pahrump Hills. This is the second time that we are driving up the exposed section, and on this pass we’ve selected several key outcrops to study in more detail. The full path of our “walkabout” at the Pahrump Hills can be seen here. Over the weekend Curiosity used her Dust Removal Tool to expose fresh surfaces at several spots at Pink Cliffs, and today we’re planning to image those locations using all of the Mastcam camera filters. Then Curiosity will drive from Pink Cliffs to Book Cliffs. After the drive we’ll acquire Mastcam and Navcam images to prepare for contact science tomorrow. One of the challenges in today’s plan is that our expected downlink data volume is fairly low, meaning that we might not get all of the images down in time for planning tomorrow. But if all goes well and the necessary images are received, then we’re looking forward to getting detailed information about the fine-scale textures and chemistry at Book Cliffs tomorrow. I’m on duty as the Geology and Mineralogy Science Theme Lead this week, so my fingers are crossed for some good data!

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.

Ryan’s Sol 809-811 Update: Contact Science

14 November 2014 – With the weekend coming up, we are working on a three sol plan for sols 809-811. The main activity for sol 809 is using Curiosity’s arm to brush off the target “Mojave” followed by supporting images with Mastcam and MAHLI and measurements with APXS. On sol 810, Mastcam has two mosaics in the morning, one of which is a re-shoot of the “Pink Cliffs” mosaic from sol 808, but taken in the late afternoon this time so that the low angle of the lighting highlights the textures. In the evening there is another round of contact science. We will brush the dust off of the target “Potatoe” (which, despite what you may think, was not named by Dan Quayle), and do several APXS measurements along with MAHLI images. MAHLI will also take some pictures of the target “Pilot Knob Valley”. On sol 811, science mostly has the day off after a couple of late nights of APXS and MAHLI, and the main activity is an engineering test of the backup computer on Curiosity to make sure that it can be used as the primary computer if that ever becomes necessary.v

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 806-808 Update: Congratulations Rosetta!

13 November 2014 – On Sol 806, we at the USGS were off for Veteran’s Day, but Curiosity was still busy! The sol 806 plan had a pretty simple morning science block with a single Mastcam image of the target “Glendora” along with some Mastcam and Navcam atmospheric observations. After that, we used the arm to take close-up images of targets “Ricardo” and “Pelona,” and to brush off Ricardo in preparation for an overnight measurement of its composition using APXS. The afternoon science block was dedicated to some more atmospheric observations.

On sol 807, we did some Navcam cloud monitoring over Mount Sharp, and made some Mastcam observations of targets “Shoemaker”, Pelona, and Ricardo. After that, we drove toward “Pink Cliffs” and then took some Mastcam and Navcam of our surroundings to look for good locations for more contact science. Our expected downlink for sol 807 was limited, so we had to be careful about prioritizing which data came down first.

Of course, while sol 807 planning was happening, the Rosetta team (including several of our colleagues on Curiosity) was busy making history by landing on a comet! The pictures that the Philae lander is returning are just spectacular – congratulations to the European Space Agency!

In Curiosity’s sol 808 plan, we have some more Mastcam and Navcam atmospheric monitoring and dust-devil searches. There is also a Mastcam mosaic of “Pink Cliffs” and of targets “Rosamond” and “Fernando.” Then the arm will get a workout: MAHLI will take a picture of the ChemCam window and the REMS UV sensor, and then Curiosity will brush the dust off of the target Rosamond, followed by MAHLI images, and several APXS measurements, including an overnight integration.

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.

Ken’s Sol 805 Update: Tight Sol

10 November 2014 – MSL planning is no longer restricted, but today’s commands must be sent to the spacecraft earlier than usual, so tactical planning started 1 hour earlier than usual. The Sol 803 drive put the rover in a good position for examination of fine-scale layering using the arm instruments. The science team proposed several arm activities on various targets, but time limitations required reducing the observations to APXS measurements and MAHLI imaging of two targets, “Ricardo” and “Pelona.” The Dust Removal Tool will be used to brush dust off of the target Pelona before imaging it with MAHLI and placing the APXS on it for overnight integration. It was a hectic morning for me as SOWG Chair as we prioritized science targets and determined what could be included in the plan and reviewed before the deadline for uplink to 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.

baptist health montgomerybuy metronidazole