Author Archive

Lauren’s Sol 1659-1660 Update: Time to hit the road again

5 April 2017 – Curiosity has been carrying out a great investigation at Ogunquit Beach, but we’re still working out some issues related to the drill feed, so the decision was made to drive away in today’s plan. We’re driving away with a cache full of sand, so we can still deliver to CheMin and SAM in a future plan.

I was the Geology Science Theme Lead today, and our plan was focused on picking up a few last observations at Ogunquit Beach before driving away. The plan starts with APXS on undisturbed sand at the target “Pamola,” with corresponding MAHLI documentation images. This observation will be helpful to compare to APXS results from the disturbed sand in the wheel scuff. Later in the afternoon, there’s another arm backbone to run some drill diagnostics. Then we’ll acquire several high-priority Mastcam change detection observations, to monitor the movement of sand in a few places, one of which corresponds to a previous Navcam dust devil survey. We’ll also take two stereo mosaics to evaluate ripple wavelength and height. Before we fully drive away, we’ll position the back of the rover over Ogunquit Beach so DAN can take a measurement. Then Curiosity will continue driving to the south. After the drive we’ll take post-drive imaging for targeting, and prepare for the possibility of contact science in the weekend plan. The second sol includes an autonomously selected ChemCam target, and a ChemCam calibration activity. We’ll also take several Mastcam and Navcam images to search for dust devils and monitor the amount of dust in the atmosphere. Even though we’re leaving the dune behind, there’s some interesting outcrop up ahead so I’m excited to see what the more resistant outcrop might hold!

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 1657-1658 Update: April Fool’s Day, or Groundhog’s Day?

4 April 2017 – Over the weekend there was a problem with the Deep Space Network that we rely on to transmit commands to Curiosity, so the rover didn’t receive its instructions and instead went into “runout” mode, where it patiently waits for commands and does some basic environmental monitoring in the meantime. That means today’s plan was a “do-over” trying to cram everything from our weekend plan into two sols.

The Sol 1657 plan starts with a busy remote sensing science block. Navcam will take a couple of images of the workspace, then Mastcam will do a large multispectral mosaic of Vera Rubin Ridge and its interesting iron oxides. This is then followed by a multispectral observation of the target “Fivemile Brook” and an image to monitor the rover deck. Mastcam also has the first of several change monitoring observations in the science block. These observations are repeated throughout the day to see if any sand moves. Once Mastcam is done, ChemCam has a couple of passive calibration activities, followed by a long-distance RMI observation of Mt. Sharp that I requested.

Later in the Sol 1657 plan, MAHLI has a couple of documentation images of the scoop location at Ogunquit, and MARDI has a twilight observation of the ground under our wheels. SAM also has an engineering activity.

On Sol 1658, the plan starts off with some morning atmospheric observations using Navcam and Mastcam, as well as the start of another set of Mastcam change detection images. The main targeted science block on Sol 1658 has ChemCam observations of the targets “Kamankeag” and “Hamlik Peak” with accompanying Mastcam images. Navcam also has a dust devil movie and a cloud movie in this science block.

A little bit later in the afternoon, Mastcam will repeat its change detection image and do another couple of observations to measure the dust in the atmosphere. The change detection images will continue on into the evening, and MARDI will also take another image to see what has changed beneath the rover.

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 and Michael’s Sols 1654-1656 Update: MAHLI imaging of OG1 and remote sensing

31 March 2017 – Today’s three-sol plan starts with MAHLI imaging of the first scoop location (OG1). The first sol also includes Mastcam and MARDI imaging for change detection. The second sol involves a number of remote sensing activities, starting with a long morning imaging suite for environmental monitoring observations. The imaging suites are special observations that include Navcam cloud movies and dust opacity measurements from both Navcam and Mastcam at an early morning time, when the rover is usually asleep and recharging. The sol 1655 imaging suite is a long version which also includes a ChemCam passive sky measurement, which seeks to determine the chemical composition of the air near MSL. All of these measurements are duplicated in the afternoon to check for diurnal variability. Later in the afternoon we’ll also take a large Mastcam mosaic of “Vera Rubin Ridge,” for both stereo and multispectral analysis of the prominent ridge at the base of Mt. Sharp. We’ll also acquire a multispectral Mastcam image of the area observed by the Ground Temperature Sensor (GTS) to help with thermal modeling and grain size determination. The plan includes the usual REMS and DAN measurements, and additional REMS observations were added to determine if the REMS GTS is affected by an increase in winds in the afternoon. The second sol also includes more Mastcam change detection observations, and a large Navcam 15-frame dust devil movie to attempt to capture movement in individual dust devils and to estimate the amount of dust lifted by a range of vortex sizes. On the third sol, ChemCam will perform some calibration activities and analyze targets “Kamankeag” and “Hamlin Peak” to assess the composition of Murray bedrock and a small ripple. I’ll be on duty next week, so I’m getting caught up and looking forward to more dune campaign activities..

By Lauren Edgar and Michael Battalio

Lauren Edgar is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team. Michael Battalio is a Ph.D. candidate in atmospheric science at Texas A&M, and today’s ENV Science Theme Lead.

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 and Michael’s Sol 1653 Update: Targeted science at Ogunquit Beach

30 March 2017 – Yesterday afternoon the downlink included some results of ongoing drill feed diagnostics that warrant a further look before proceeding with the dune campaign, so the arm activities from Sol 1652 were pulled from the plan and we did not drop-off to CheMin. But we did receive some beautiful images of scoop OG1, as shown in the above Mastcam image. Today’s plan is a great opportunity to do some targeted remote sensing activities that we haven’t been able to accomplish due to power constraints earlier in the week. The first science block includes ChemCam observations of “North Brother” and “Avery Peak” to investigate undisturbed sand and to look for changes in sand composition along a ripple crest. Then Mastcam will document the ChemCam targets and take several change detection observations. Later in the day, the GEO theme group requested a ChemCam observation of “Baxter Peak” to investigate changes in composition along another large ripple crest. We also planned two Mastcam mosaics to document sedimentary structures and changes in the Murray formation at nearby outcrops.

Meanwhile, the ENV theme group used the remote sensing sol to catch up on normal cadence activities, which had been partially suspended to provide as much time as possible for the dune campaign. ENV added a Navcam supra-horizon movie to try to capture cloud activity above the crater rim. Additionally, Mastcam was planned to capture a mid-week tau, to continue tracking changes in atmospheric dust between the usual weekend observations. The plan also includes a four-frame, Navcam dust devil survey to cover as wide an area across Gale as possible, and REMS and DAN observations were included as usual.

By Lauren Edgar and Michael Battalio

Lauren Edgar is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team. Michael Battalio is a Ph.D. candidate in atmospheric science at Texas A&M, and today’s ENV Science Theme Lead.

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 1652 Update: CheMin drop-off and SAM Analysis

29 March 2017 – Sol 1651 activities executed nominally, so today’s plan is focused on dropping off the fine-grained portion of “Ogunquit Beach” Scoop #1 (now named “OG1”) to CheMin, and SAM analysis of OG1. The plan kicks off with Mastcam multispectral imaging of the right and left wheel scuffs, as well as Mastcam change detection imaging. Then ChemCam will investigate “Tumbledown Mountain,” “Elephant Mountain” and “Canoe Point,” to characterize the composition of sand in different parts of the left wheel scuff. Navcam will also acquire an image to look at line-of-sight dust loading within the crater. Later in the afternoon, part of the OG1 sample will be dropped off to CheMin. Curiosity will stay busy overnight, with a SAM solid sample evolved gas experiment to analyze the fine-grained portion of OG1. I’m busy on the other side of the planet working operations for the Opportunity rover today, but it’s fun to hear many members of both rover teams jumping back and forth between telecons to help plan lots of great science activities for our hardworking robots.

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 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)

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