15 April 2014 – I’m attending a 3-day meeting of the full MSL science team, so I’m less focused on rover operations than usual this week. After lots of interesting discussion of scientific data and hypotheses today, we did spend some time discussing where to drill and acquire a rock sample. The choices have been narrowed down to two locations on the flank of the hill called Mount Remarkable (at upper left, here). The scientific advantages of the two sites were discussed, and there were no major differences identified. But getting to one of the sites would involve driving over rough, rocky terrain that might damage the wheels, so that site was not favored.
14 April 2014 – On April 14th, Mars made its closest approach to Earth this year. In addition, by chance, Earth’s moon is totally eclipsed on the same night, very close in the sky to similarly red Mars. What a beautiful sight! Mars’ proximity to Earth makes radio communications easier in general, but relay of data from MSL through the Mars orbiters to Earth is primarily constrained by the position of the orbiters in the sky over MSL. Communication from Earth to MSL is more affected by the Mars-Earth distance, but despite the close approach there was another problem sending commands to the rover last weekend, and therefore the planned contact science and drive did not occur.
12 April 2014 – It was a busy day for the tactical uplink team, planning 3 sols to get MSL through the weekend. I was MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead, and focused on MAHLI imaging of the ChemCam window to determine how much dust is on it. We’ve taken such an image before when the window was in shadow, and wanted to try again with the window illuminated. We also planned MAHLI images of hardware on the remote sensing mast, to see if there are any signs of cable/fiber wear. Lots of ChemCam and Mastcam targeted observations are planned for Sol 598, followed by APXS and MAHLI observations on the outcrop in front of the rover. Then the rover will drive about 9 meters toward better outcrops, to get into position for more contact science next week. Finally SAM preconditioning and other activities are planned overnight to prepare for the next sample analysis.
11 April 2014 – Unfortunately, the set of commands sent to the rover for Sol 596 were not received, so the rover correctly responded by executing the runout sequence that is appended to every day’s command bundle. After confirming that the rover is healthy, the tactical team sent an only slightly modified version of the Sol 596 plan to the rover for execution on Sol 597. Hopefully it will be received as usual, and the rover will drive toward the outcrops of interest.
10 April 2014 – The surface near the rover isn’t very interesting, so planning for Sol 596 focused on driving toward the outcrops up to 50 meters away. During the drive, the rover will stop and acquire DAN, Hazcam and MARDI data on the striated unit before moving on. So it was an only slightly busier day for me as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead. After the drive, Navcam and Mastcam images will be taken to allow an approach to the outcrop on Sol 597.
8 April 2014 – Mars is at opposition today, so Mars will rise at sunset and be visible all night here on Earth. On Mars, Earth is not visible because it is too close to the Sun.
The MSL Sol 595 plan is dominated by a drive along the edge of The Kimberley outcrop with Mastcam and Navcam stereo imaging at 4 locations along the way. Lots more Mastcam images will be taken after the drive, to help plan our exploration of The Kimberley. It was an easy day for me as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead, as only standard MAHLI wheel images, a stowed image, and a MARDI twilight image were planned.
7 April 2014 – The rover will stay put on Sol 594 and acquire lots of ChemCam and Mastcam data on interesting nearby rocks. I’m not scheduled in a tactical operations role today, but I’m following along because I’ll be MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead tomorrow.
5 April 2014 – Planning for the weekend focused on investigating the troughs in front of the rover with ChemCam, Mastcam and MAHLI, then driving about 12 meters along the edge of the Kimberley outcrop and taking mid-drive measurements of subsurface hydrogen (water ice) content with DAN and imaging the outcrop with Mastcam. Lots of data are being acquired, so extra attention is being paid to prioritizing various observations so that they are received in the order they are needed. It may be a while before all of the data acquired during this waypoint campaign are received on Earth.
4 April 2014 – MSL has arrived at The Kimberley waypoint! The Sol 590 plan was dominated by Mastcam stereo observations of the extensive outcrop in front of the rover. Overnight, SAM will perform a cleaning activity in preparation for new sample analysis. The Mastcam mosaics should be useful in evaluating potential drill locations.