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Curiosity Mission Updates

NASA Mars Rover Curiosity: Mission Updates. Provided by mission team members from USGS Astrogeology Science Center

Sol 1653: Targeted science at Ogunquit Beach

March 30, 2017 - Thursday

Sol 1651 Mastcam scoop

 

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 is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team.  Michael 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.


Sol 1652: CheMin drop-off and SAM Analysis

March 29, 2017 - Wednesday

Sol 1651 Navcam

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.

By Lauren Edgar 

--Lauren 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.


Sol 1651: Scoop #1 at Ogunquit Beach

March 28, 2017 - Tuesday

Sol 1650 MAHLI Flanders Bay

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. 

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren 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.


Sols 1647-1649: Approaching the dune edge

March 24, 2017 - Friday

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 17x3 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.

by Ken Herkenhoff

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.


Sol 1646: Traction control driving

March 23, 2017 - Thursday

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.

by Ken Herkenhoff

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.


Sol 1645: Searching for dust devils

March 22, 2017 - Wednesday

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)

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.


Sol 1640-1642: Better Late than Never!

March 21, 2017 - Tuesday

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!

by Ryan Anderson

-Ryan is a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the ChemCam team on MSL.


Sol 1643: First half of long-baseline stereo

March 20, 2017 - Monday

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 3x1 mosaic of a layered rock about 11 meters away dubbed "Saint Daniel" and a 28x1 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. 

by Ken Herkenhoff

 

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.


Sol 1639: Onward to Ogunquit Beach

March 16, 2017 - Thursday

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.

by Ryan Anderson

-Ryan is a planetary scientist 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


Sol 1638: Busy Day for MAHLI

March 15, 2017 - Wednesday

Curiosity's arm analyzing the sand at stop 3

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!

by Ryan Anderson

-Ryan is a planetary scientist 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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