Ken’s Sol 1027-1029 Update: Resuming Tactical Operations

NLB_486532425EDR_F0481570NCAM00323M_

26 June 2015 – Mars has passed through solar conjunction, and reliable communication with the spacecraft at Mars is possible again. As planning started this morning, we were still waiting for more data to be relayed by the orbiters to confirm that MSL is ready to resume science planning, but proceeded with tactical planning so that we would be ready when the data arrived. The Sol 1027 plan starts with Mastcam observations of several targets that were imaged just before solar conjunction, to look for changes caused by winds or maybe Marsquakes. Mastcam will then look at the sun to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, Navcam will search for dust devils, and ChemCam/Mastcam will observe nearby targets “Piegan” and “Wallace.” On Sol 1028, the arm will be used to take MAHLI images of the rocks and soil in front of the rover from various vantage points, to measure changes in their reflectance with observation geometry (“photometry”). After dusk, APXS and MAHLI will measure 3 spots on a rock called “Big Arm” that was imaged by MAHLI during the day before solar conjunction. The nighttime images, using MAHLI’s LEDs for illumination, should nicely complement the daytime images of the rock. Finishing off the weekend plan, on Sol 1029 ChemCam will acquire some calibration data and Mastcam will take a stereo mosaic of the outcrops to the east of the rover.

As SOWG Chair today, I was a bit worried about planning so many activities on the first day of tactical planning in a few weeks, but the team hit the ground running and did a great job. Early this afternoon, we got word from the downlink team that the data acquired during conjunction show that the rover is in good health, and that we were therefore “go” for planning. MSL is back in action!

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 Sols 1003-1004 Update: Last Tactical Planning Before Solar Conjunction

29 May 2015 – Today is the last day of MSL tactical operations until after solar conjunction, so this will probably be the last MSL update for a few weeks. Ryan Anderson and I are both on shift as payload uplink lead today, but because the instruments we’re representing (ChemCam and MAHLI/MARDI, respectively) are already standing down in preparation for conjunction, our efforts have been focused on planning for the resumption of activities after conjunction. We don’t know precisely when tactical planning will resume, as the ability to communicate with spacecraft as Mars passes behind the Sun depends on variable solar activity. The expectation is that the next tactical planning day will be June 25th (Sol 1026), but the schedule probably won’t firm up until that week.

The Sol 1003 plan starts with Mastcam images of the Sun to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, followed by another set of Mastcam/Navcam photometry images to extend the experiment started on Sol 1000. Then Mastcam will take images of various targets near the rover, to be compared with images of the same targets taken after conjunction to look for changes caused by winds. Later in the afternoon, the photometry and change-detection imaging will be repeated, and Mastcam will acquire a stereo mosaic of “Apikuni Mountain.” Then the focus motors of both Mastcams will be moved to their “home” positions for conjunction and Navcam will search for clouds above MSL. The Sol 1004 plan includes only the usual RAD and REMS observations, a preview of the plan for the next few weeks. During the break from tactical operations, the science team will have more time to analyze the wealth of data the rover has returned over the past 1000 sols.

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 Sols 1000-1002 Update: Photometry

29 May 2015 – We’re planning 3 sols of MSL activities today, starting with Sol 1000! As we continue to prepare for solar conjunction, arm motion is allowed in this plan, but no contact science. The plan starts with ChemCam and Mastcam observations of a platy rock called “Newland” and a Navcam search for dust devils. Then the first of several Mastcam/Navcam photometry observations is planned. The goal of these images of patches of ground east and west of the rover is to measure reflectivity at various times of day and compare the results with models of the physical properties of the surface. The arm will then be moved to a position that allows imaging in front of the rover, including a large Mastcam stereo mosaic of the nearby outcrops. The rover will wake up early on Sol 1001 for another photometry observation, which will be repeated later that morning before Mastcam and Chemcam observations of “Big Arm 2,” a potential contact science target. Three more photometry observations are planned late in the afternoon, before the arm is tucked away for conjunction. On Sol 1002, Mastcam will observe the Sun during the day, and Phobos after dusk. It’s been a good day for me so far as SOWG Chair–not too hectic but certainly not boring!

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 999 Update: Last MAHLI Images Before Conjunction

28 May 2015 – Today is the last day we can plan MAHLI activities before the operational stand-down for solar conjunction, to ensure that we have time to confirm that MAHLI’s dust cover is safely closed. So we worked to include as many MAHLI images as possible in the Sol 999 plan, making for a rather hectic day for me as MAHLI uplink lead.

The plan includes a full set of MAHLI images of a potential DRT target called “Big Arm.” The target dubbed “Wallace” was selected for brushing by the DRT, followed by a full set of MAHLI images of the brushed spot. The APXS will then be placed on Wallace for overnight integration. Mastcam multispectral observations of the brushed Ronan target and some rocks broken by one of the wheels (dubbed “Seeley”) are also planned–we want to image them before any dust is deposited on those clean surfaces.

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 998 Update: Contact Science at Marias Pass

27 May 2015 – A short bump on Sol 997 put Curiosity in a great position to investigate a few different rock units in Marias Pass, using the instruments on the rover’s arm. The 2.5 m drive brings our total odometry to 10,599 m. With the upcoming solar conjunction (Mars will be on the opposite side of the sun from the Earth, so we can’t communicate with the rover for most of the month of June), Curiosity is now parked for the next few weeks. But we are parked in front of a beautiful outcrop that shows the contact between the underlying Pahrump unit and the overlying Stimson unit.

The goal of today’s plan is to characterize the Stimson unit. First, Curiosity will acquire ChemCam and Mastcam on part of the Stimson unit called “Ronan” (the large block in the top part of this Mastcam image) as well as a coarse-grained block named “Big_Arm.” Then we’ll acquire several MAHLI images on “Ronan.” Next, Curiosity will brush “Ronan” to remove the dust, and will then take MAHLI images of the brushed area to get a better look at the grain size and textures. And finally, we’ll place APXS on the target to investigate the bulk chemistry of “Ronan.” Tomorrow’s plan will likely include similar observations on the Pahrump unit.

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 997 Update: Preparing for Contact Science

26 May 2015 – Curiosity spent the weekend characterizing the terrain and bedrock exposed in Marias Pass. Curiosity drove 33 m further into Marias Pass, bringing our total odometry to 10,596 m. The drive set us up perfectly to investigate the contact between two different types of bedrock – the underlying Pahrump unit and the overlying Stimson unit.

Today’s plan is focused on characterizing the contact in this new location, and then bumping even closer to the outcrop to prepare for contact science later this week. Now that ChemCam is back in action with its autonomous focusing capability, the plan includes two ChemCam rasters on the targets “Mission” and “Missoula” to assess the chemistry on either side of the contact. The plan also includes some Mastcam mosaics to document the sedimentary structures, and a Navcam observation to search for dust devils. Then Curiosity will bump closer to the outcrop, and will acquire images for future targeting. Overnight, Curiosity will acquire Mastcam images of Phobos to study aerosols in the atmosphere of Mars.

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 986 Update: Finding a Path

15 May 2015 – We’ve been having trouble with the path we originally wanted to take through the sand toward the interesting geology at “Mt. Stimson”, so in today’s plan we are going to take a careful look around to identify better routes. Mastcam has a 13×3 mosaic in the direction we want to go, as well as a 5×3 mosaic of Mt. Stimson and a 2×2 mosaic to fill a gap in a previous mosaic.

While Mastcam tries to spot a path through the sand, ChemCam is busy testing out its new focusing software, which seems to be working well. ChemCam has an autofocus observation of a target called “Yellowjacket”, and a z-stack observation of the same target to compare the results.

After that, we have a short backwards drive to get us from our current highly tilted location to more level ground. After the drive, Navcam will provide a 360 degree view of our new location, and Mastcam will do a “clast survey” to document the sand and pebbles at our new location.

Finally, Mastcam has some night-time imaging of another Phobos eclipse.

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 985 Update: High Tilt

14 May 2015 – Once again, excessive wheel slippage prevented MSL from driving as far as planned, so the tactical team decided to take a break from driving to allow various options to be studied in more detail. The rover is tilted 21 degrees, the highest tilt of the mission so far, on the flank of a small ridge. The vehicle is high enough on the ridge that the terrain to the southwest is visible in Sol 984 Navcam images, allowing more complete evaluation of a traverse in that direction.

The Sol 985 plan includes ChemCam observations of a nearby rock called “Una” to test the newly-installed ChemCam autofocus software. Of course we are hoping this test goes well and that ChemCam will return to more normal operations soon. Mastcam will also observe Una, as well as the ripples and small rocks near the rover, and outcrops toward the south. The usual atmospheric monitoring observations round out 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.

Ken’s Sol 984 Update: Slippery Sand

NLB_484760343EDR_S0471632NCAM00261M_

13 May 2015 – The MSL tactical team took a day off yesterday to allow Earth and Mars time to synch up; planning is no longer restricted and we will be working every day the rest of this week (including Saturday). Despite efforts to avoid sandy areas, the Sol 983 drive stopped short when the rover detected that it was slipping too much. So after taking some Mastcam images of the areas that are being considered for upcoming contact science, the rover will back up and drive around the sand and up onto a low ridge to the southwest of our current location. The slopes on the flank of the ridge are steeper than those that the rover has traversed before, but it will probably be easier to climb them than to drive across the sandy ripples. Overnight, CheMin will perform an instrument calibration activity.

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 983 Update: More Sand Traps

NLB_484578508EDR_F0471452NCAM00259M_

11 May 2015 – The Sol 981 drive got the rover around the troublesome ripples and to the desired location, which gave us a good view of the terrain ahead. Unfortunately, the images taken from the new location show more sandy ripples between the rover and the sharp transition between bright and dark rocks that we would would like to examine close up. So the plan for Sol 983 is to go around the ripples to the right and search for a safe path ahead. But first, ChemCam will test its new focusing software, using the RMI to find the best focus position for LIBS analyses of the onboard calibration targets. The biggest challenge for me as SOWG Chair today was prioritizing data for downlink, as the data volume expected via MRO is much less than usual. We will probably receive the images most urgently needed to plan the next drive, but not the results of the ChemCam software tests. This will delay the return of ChemCam to “normal” operations. But the near-term focus will likely be on driving, so there will be few opportunities for ChemCam observations anyway.

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