Author Archive

Lauren’s Sol 1651 Update: Scoop #1 at Ogunquit Beach

28 March 2017 – Sol 1650 activities completed as expected, so it’s time to start scooping. Today’s plan is focused on acquiring Scoop #1 and dropping off a portion of the sample to SAM. This is the first of four intended scoops at this location, aimed at sampling different grain sizes and their composition. The plan begins with a Mastcam mosaic of “Kennebago Divide” to document some possible layering exposed by the wheel scuff on the right side of the workspace. We’ll also take several Mastcam images for change detection to monitor active sand movement. Then the arm backbone starts by retracting the arm and a vibe to clean APXS. After that we’ll take a few MAHLI documentation images of the “Flanders Bay” and Scoop #1 locations (prior to scooping), and a very close-up image of the “Avery Peak” ripple crest. Next up, we’ll acquire Scoop #1! The sample will be sieved, and the fine-grained portion (<150 microns) will be delivered to SAM. These are all very power intensive activities so there wasn’t much room for other science today, but tomorrow’s plan should accommodate more activities and context observations. In the meantime, sitting on “Ogunquit Beach” is providing a pretty great view.

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 1650 Update: Let the scooping begin!

27 March 2017 – Over the weekend, Curiosity bumped to our scooping location at “Ogunquit Beach.” We have a wheel scuff in the left side of our workspace and a sinuous ripple crest in the right side of the workspace, which according to today’s Geology Science Theme Lead Michelle Minitti is “everything a dune lover could want!” Today’s plan is focused on imaging the ripple crest, the interior of the scuff, and two of the scoop targets, along with APXS of the scuff interior.

The plan starts with slip assessment imaging and vibe checkout to prepare for sampling activities. Then we’ll acquire MAHLI images of two of the planned scoop targets to characterize the sites before we scoop them. We’ll also acquire MAHLI images of the interior of the scuff, now known as the “Flanders Bay” target, to assess the disturbed sand, and the ripple crest, now known as “Avery Peak.” Then we’ll place the APXS over “Flanders Bay” for an overnight integration. SAM will also perform some preconditioning heating activities to prepare for upcoming solid sample analysis. This is a very power intensive plan, so we had to trim back a couple of science activities to accommodate the sampling-related activities. Looking forward to a very complex and exciting scooping campaign!

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 1647-1649 Update: Approaching the dune edge

24 March 2017 – The traction control test went well, and MSL drove over 30 meters on Sol 1646. The rover will be busy this weekend with lots of remote sensing, arm work, and a drive onto the edge of the dune. On Sol 1647, Left Mastcam will take a 360-degree panorama and Right Mastcam will acquire a 17×3 mosaic of the edge of the sand dune, which was named “Ogunquit Beach.” Then ChemCam and Right Mastcam will observe bedrock targets “Damariscotta Lake,” “Mount Katahdin,” and “Boothbay Harbor.” Late that afternoon, the arm will be unstowed for drill diagnostic tests and a full suite of MAHLI images on another bedrock target dubbed “Halftide Ledge.” APXS will then be placed on the same target for an overnight integration.

On Sol 1648, the arm will be stowed after more drill diagnostic tests and Navcam will search for dust devils while REMS acquires environmental data. Then the rover will drive onto the dune, toward a target near the center of the image above. After the drive, the arm will be unstowed to allow Mastcam and Navcam to acquire stereo images of the arm workspace to support planning next week. Early the next morning, Mastcam will measure the dust in the atmosphere and Navcam will search for clouds. In the afternoon, Right Mastcam will repeatedly take pictures of 3 areas near the rover to look for changes due to winds. Mastcam will also search for dust devils and measure atmospheric dust at two different times of day. Finally, the rover will sleep through the night to recharge in preparation for what will likely be a busy week.

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 1646 Update: Traction control driving

23 March 2017 – MSL drove a little over 20 meters on Sol 1645, toward the big sand dune to the east that is the subject of a science campaign that will hopefully start next week. Another drive toward the east is planned for Sol 1646, with post-drive imaging to set up for contact science. The drive will include the first use on Mars of traction control software that’s been tested and fine-tuned in JPL’s Mars Yard since last April. This new software allows the rover to drive “softer,” meaning that when the rover detects that a wheel is driving over a rock, it slows the other five wheels to avoid pushing the wheel into the rock while the wheel climbs over the rock. Curiosity’s first use of traction control has been planned for months to begin about now and is intended to validate the new software for optional use in future drives.

Before the Sol 1646 drive, ChemCam will observe targets “Bald Rock Ledge” and “Porcupine Dry Ledge” on one of the layered outcrops to the right of the rover. Then Right Mastcam will acquire mosaics of both of the layered outcrops shown in the picture above. After the drive, Navcam will again search for dust devils and ChemCam will observe a target selected by AEGIS. Finally, Navcam will search for clouds and SAM will perform an engineering baseline test.

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.

Michael and Ken’s Sol 1645 Update: Searching for dust devils

22 March 2017 – The APXS will still be deployed on The Hop early on Sol 1645, and to avoid using battery power to heat up the arm, we’ll wait until early afternoon to move it out of the way. So we had to pick ChemCam and Right Mastcam targets that would not be obscured by the arm: A bright vein named “Snows Point” and a knobby-looking rock dubbed “Clam Ledge.” Navcam will then search for clouds and dust devils before the APXS is retracted from The Hop and more drill diagnostic tests performed. The Navcam surveys are part of an ongoing Environmental Science Theme Group (ENV) campaign to meticulously search for dust devil activity in Gale Crater. It is important to maintain a regular cadence, because as the location of the rover and thus surface topography changes, the size and number of dust devils can change. In concert with the imaging, simultaneous REMS measurements can detect pressure drops if vortices travel over or near the rover. This set of observations is needed to constrain model simulations and is an excellent example of two different instruments working together to improve our understanding of the meteorology of Gale Crater and dust lifting processes on Mars as MSL traverses up Mount Sharp. ENV also plans to repeat the Mastcam optical depth measurement and Navcam cloud movies that will be taken early in the morning of Sol 1645, to check for diurnal variability. A Mastcam afternoon sky survey is also planned, to characterize dust in the atmosphere. Today’s drive will be followed by the post-drive imaging needed to plan contact science and another drive this weekend.
by Michael Battalio (ENV Science Theme Lead) and Ken Herkenhoff (SOWG Chair)

Ryan’s Sol 1640-1642 Update: Better Late than Never!

21 March 2017 – Sorry for the delayed posting! In the rush to get ready for the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), I forgot to post about the sol 1640-42 plan. Better late than never!

The weekend plan started with some Navcam atmospheric observations, followed by ChemCam on the bedrock target “Big Moose Mountain”. Mastcam documented the ChemCam target and then did some deck monitoring and atmospheric dust observations. Then MAHLI and APXS analyzed the excellently-named targets “Junk of Pork Island” and “Uncle Steve’s Point”.

On Sol 1641, ChemCam analyzed “Dram Island” and “Frye Island”. Mastcam documented those targets and the APXS targets with a couple of small mosaics, and also observed the target “Anasagunticook”. We also ran some drill diagnostics. On Sol 1642 our main activity was a drive with typical post-drive imaging and MARDI.

Now, back to LPSC! If you want to hear the latest in planetary science, I and many others are “microblogging” the sessions on twitter, using the hashtag #LPSC2017!

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 1644 Update: Staying put

21 March 2017 – The Sol 1644 plan focuses on arm activities, because the volume of data expected to be relayed via the MRO and Mars Odyssey orbiters in time for planning tomorrow is too small to allow both a drive and drill diagnostic tests. So the tactical science team took advantage of the opportunity for contact science by planning APXS and MAHLI observations of bedrock targets named “The Hop” and “The Horns.” But first, ChemCam and Right Mastcam will observe The Hop, then Right Mastcam will image the target AEGIS selected yesterday and examine rocks named “Heald Mountain,” “Caucomgomoc Lake,” and “Mooselookmeguntic Lake.” Mastcam will also search for late-morning dust devils. After the drill diagnostics and full suites of MAHLI images of The Hop and The Horns, the APXS will be placed on The Hop for an overnight integration. Early the next morning, Navcam will search for clouds and Mastcam will measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere.

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 1643 Update: First half of long-baseline stereo

20 March 2017 – MSL drove about 28 meters toward the south on Sol 1642 and again is in an area with Murray Formation bedrock blocks surrounded by dark sand. I helped plan ChemCam observations today, and we settled on a target called “Vinalhaven” at the left side of the layered bedrock exposure seen at upper left in this image. Right Mastcam will image Vinalhaven and coarse material to the right of that bedrock block, at targets named “Rindgemere” and “Hurd Mountain.” Then Right Mastcam will image more distant targets, with a 3×1 mosaic of a layered rock about 11 meters away dubbed “Saint Daniel” and a 28×1 mosaic of the hematite-bearing “Vera Rubin Ridge” in the distance. This latter mosaic is the first half of a long-baseline stereo observation that should allow the topography of Vera Rubin Ridge to be measured more accurately than is possible using standard Mastcam stereo images. The long baseline will be achieved by moving the rover between Mastcam observations.

Another drive is planned for Sol 1643, followed by the standard post-drive imaging plus Left Mastcam imaging of the arm workspace to support possible contact science in the next plan. Later in the afternoon, Navcam will search for dust devils and clouds, and ChemCam will again use AEGIS to autonomously select a target and acquire data.

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 1639 Update: Onward to Ogunquit Beach

16 March 2017 – Planning was challenging this morning because of some network issues at JPL, but the team figured out how to work around the problem and still managed to put together a good plan! We’ve been at Stop 3 of the dune campaign (now known as “Southern Cove”) for a couple of sols, so in today’s plan it’s time to move on.

On Sol 1639 the rover will begin by retracting the arm and doing some drill diagnostics before taking MAHLI images of the targets “Greenvale Cove” and “Holmes Hole”. After that, we have a remote sensing science block with a Navcam movie to watch for clouds above the crater rim, followed by a Mastcam change detection observation of “Holmes Hole” and a ChemCam observation of the disturbed sand at “Greenvale Cove”. Mastcam will also document “Greenvale Cove”. After the remote sensing is done, Curiosity will drive toward Stop 4 (“Ogunquit Beach”) and collect some post-drive images.

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 1638 Update: Busy Day for MAHLI

15 March 2017 – Today we are continuing our investigation of Stop #3 of the Bagnold Dune campaign. We start off with some MAHLI images of the APXS targets “Ripogenus” and “Spragueville” from yesterday. For these images, the MAHLI dust cover will stay closed. Then ChemCam will analyze the bedrock target “Holmes Hole” and the sand target “Spragueville”, with Mastcam support images. MAHLI will then come back to “Ripogenus” and “Spragueville” for some very close (2 cm and 1 cm, respectively) images, followed by some 25cm and 5cm images of the targets “Ash Island” and “Greenvale Cove”. APXS then will do a short analysis of “Ash Island” and a longer observation of “Greenvale Cove”. Also, as usual for our dune campaign stops, Mastcam will be taking change detection images throughout the day.

Meanwhile, many of us on the science team are busy preparing our posters and presentations for the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) which is next week!

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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