May 20, 2020

Sols 2769-2770: Staring into the Distance at 'Glasgow'

Written by Susanne Schwenzer, Planetary Geologist at The Open University
This image shows the ChemCam target "Gutcher" and was taken by Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2768.

This image shows the ChemCam target "Gutcher" and was taken by Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2768. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL. Download image ›​

Curiosity is still busy at "Glasgow" with SAM analyzing the drill sample in the upcoming plan. This takes a lot of the rover's power, thus other activities have to wait just a little. But we are all looking forward to what SAM will find, so patience isn't a problem at all! Questions those SAM analysis can answer, from a mineralogist point of view (yes, that's me...) are "How much water does this sample release when heated?" and "How much sulphur does this sample release?", both of which are very important additions to the information we get for mineralogy from CheMin and for chemistry from ChemCam and APXS.

Despite the power going mostly to SAM, there are two ChemCam activities in the plan. Target "Glenapp" will be used for ChemCam pointing test. Since the instrument is looking at tiny, tiny things on Mars, the team is going to use this activity to even better understand the accuracy with which the laser hits its target. The second target, "Bowhill," is a float rock that could come from the pediment, at least that's how it looks to today's planning team. ChemCam will investigate it, so we can be sure by comparing the chemistry of the pediment rocks and this one. Mastcam is going to document tosol's ChemCam target, and a few from yestersol, too, looking at "Glowhill," "Gutcher," "Thistle Street," "Lochbuie," and "Glasgow." Mastcam will also investigate a sand patch near the rover to add to the science on modern sediments that the team has been doing throughout the mission.

And then we start to "stare into the distance" on the second sol. A Navcam line of sight, and Navcam suprahorizon and zenith movies, and then we are looking for dust devils, too. If you have never seen one on Mars, you can look back to sol 1597! All this will allow the REMS team to assess the status of the atmosphere and its dust load.

May 19, 2020

Sol 2768: Chem-fest!

Written by Rachel Kronyak, Planetary Geologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
This image was taken by Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2767.

This image was taken by Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2767. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL. Download image ›​

Carrying on with our drill campaign at the “Glasgow” site, today’s one-sol plan is short, sweet, and all about collecting chemistry data with ChemCam and CheMin! The plan includes a single one-hour science block that is packed full of ChemCam observations of three nearby targets, including bedrock target “Gutcher,” nodular bedrock target “Lochbuie,” and vein target “Thistle Street.” The target name “Lochbuie” might sound familiar – that is because over the last few weeks, Curiosity has analyzed several bedrock targets off to the side of the rover that contain varying amounts of nodules. The bedrock in this area is distinctly fractured, and the science team is interested in assessing whether the concentration and/or chemistry of nodules varies with distance from nearby fractures. For continuity, we’ve given the targets in this vicinity names that contain “Loch.” Today, Lochbuie joins the ranks of previously analyzed nodular targets in the area including “Loch na Keal,” “Loch Olabhat,” “Loch Trool,” and “Bishops Loch.” The image above shows the nodular texture in the “Loch Olabhat 2” target and was taken by ChemCam’s Remote Micro Imager. If you look closely, you can see the small, dark laser pits made by ChemCam that track horizontally across the nodule-rich rock in the center-right of the image.

In addition to ChemCam, we’ll also collect some environmental observations, including a Navcam line of sight image, dust devil movie, and a Mastcam tau measurement. Overnight, Curiosity will perform its second CheMin analysis of Glasgow drilled material.

May 18, 2020

Sol 2767: Out to Lunch

Written by Sean Czarnecki, Planetary Geologist at Arizona State University
This image was taken by Mast Camera (Mastcam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2765.

This image was taken by Mast Camera (Mastcam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2765. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Download image ›​

Curiosity is at the "Glasgow" drill site, and preparing to deliver more sample material from Glasgow to SAM in the near future. The SAM analysis will use a lot of power, so we're limiting our power use in this plan to let the batteries charge up. Even the most curious field geologists have to take a break every day to eat lunch and Curiosity does the same, although with a considerably more energy dense meal! But just like a geologist on lunch break, Curiosity is still making some useful science observations of the surrounding rocks!

First Mastcam will take stereo images of "Western Butte," then ChemCam will measure the geochemistry of "Loch Olabhat 2" followed by a Mastcam image of this target. In the background, DAN, REMS, and RAD will continue to monitor the environmental characteristics of this location.

May 15, 2020

Sols 2765-2766: Feeding Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM)

Written by Fred Calef, Planetary Geologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
This image is a view of the SAM sample inlet before dropping off the "Glasgow" drill sample taken by Mast Camera (Mastcam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2765.

This image is a view of the SAM sample inlet before dropping off the "Glasgow" drill sample taken by Mast Camera (Mastcam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2765. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Download image ›​

After a successful SAM preconditioning (rover-speak for "getting it ready"), the rover delivered some "Glasgow" drill sample into the instrument. The first experiment will be an "evolved gas" one. This is where we bake the rocks causing them to release gases from within the minerals in the sediments. These gases will be flowed to two of the three instruments which make up SAM (a mass spectrometer and tunable laser spectrometer) to measure the composition of the gas. The temperature at which gases are released gives us further insight into the composition of the sample, and allows scientists to look at how water is stored within minerals.

Since the rover didn't have a a whole lot of power, and SAM is energy intensive, we only had a few other observations. A large Mastcam mosaic was taken on the first sol covering the Greenheugh pediment as well as other Mastcam imaging for looking at dust in the air (line-of-sight extinction and solar tau) and a ChemCam passive sky observation.

Looking forward to seeing what mineral "flavors" we find!

May 13, 2020

Sols 2763-2764: Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) is Getting Ready

Written by Ryan Anderson, Planetary Geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center
A black and white panorama of Mars

This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2749. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›​

There was a hiccup with the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument in Monday’s plan preventing it from running the “preconditioning” steps to get ready for sample analysis, but after studying the issue the SAM team says that everything looks ok. So, we’re planning to try again with SAM preconditioning on the afternoon of sol 2763, so that we can go ahead with a SAM analysis of the "Glasgow" drill sample over the weekend.

While SAM gets ready, the other instruments are keeping busy: Sol 2763 starts with Navcam images of the rover deck and a movie to watch for dust devils. Navcam and Mastcam will then look at the atmosphere to the north, toward the crater rim. ChemCam has two active observations, one of a bedrock target called “Ballagan,” and one of a vein called “Carlin Tooth.” Mastcam will then do a “tau” measurement, looking at the Sun to measure dust in the atmosphere.

On Sol 2764, we’ll repeat the rover deck monitoring and the north-facing images with Navcam and Mastcam, plus a Navcam movie facing north to watch for clouds, and a larger Navcam dust devil movie. Mastcam will then take pictures of the two ChemCam targets from Sol 2763, followed by some stereo mosaics. These extend a previous mosaic to capture more images of some interesting bedrock fractures and lineations. Finally, Mastcam will repeat its tau observation of the Sun.

May 12, 2020

Sols 2761-2762: Smooth Going in Bumpy Bedrock

Written by Michelle Minitti, Planetary Geologist at Framework
Close-up of the drill site "Glasgow" on Mars

This image was taken by Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2759. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL. Download image ›​

The weekend activities at the “Glasgow” drill site proceeded smoothly, particularly delivery of Glasgow drill sample to CheMin, and CheMin's first analysis of the sample. That meant we were clear to move forward with the next step of drill sample analysis - preparing SAM to analyze the gases that bake off of the Glasgow sample. Even with the SAM preparatory activities, we had enough power and time in the plan to continue a wide imaging and chemistry survey of our surroundings. ChemCam will once again target the interior of the Glasgow drill hole, this time using a slightly different raster shape than the weekend analysis in order to hit different parts of the drill hole wall. Much of the bedrock around us is dotted with the gray, resistant bumps seen in the above ChemCam RMI image of the target "Loch Olabhat,” which was analyzed over the weekend. ChemCam appeared to detect differences in chemistry between the gray bumps in this target and their host bedrock. Thus, ChemCam will again target Loch Olabhat to investigate these apparent differences further. Another nearby target, “Bishops Loch,” which also has a mix of the layered bedrock and gray bumps seen in Loch Olabhat, will also serve as a ChemCam target in order to increase our understanding of chemistry differences throughout the bedrock.

Mastcam planned two large mosaics off the starboard side of the rover that cover the mid-ground between us, the base of "Tower Butte,” and the base of the slope up to the “Greenheugh” pediment. This zone of terrain gives us a more detailed view of the transition from the bedrock we are drilling now and the pediment cap rock we recently drilled at “Edinburgh.” A particular section of the slope up to the Greenheugh pediment exposes bedrock that could be related to yet another one of our recent drill holes, “Hutton” (wow, we have been busy!). To get a closer look, ChemCam planned a 10 frame RMI mosaic across this outcrop, named “Grimbister.”

Environmental monitoring continues as per usual, with Mastcam and Navcam imaging the sky and the rover deck for changes brought about by the changing seasons. Navcam will also acquire a movie looking for dust devils. REMS, RAD, and DAN will keep their regular watch over weather conditions, radiation environment, and the ground under the rover, respectively, throughout the plan.

May 10, 2020

Sols 2758-2760: First Taste of the 'Glasgow' Drill Sample

Written by Melissa Rice, Planetary Geologist at Western Washington University
This image was taken by Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2755.

This image was taken by Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2755. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL. Download image ›

Today’s image (above) shows the fine material called “drill tailings” that surrounds the new "Glasgow" drill hole. Some of the rock taken from inside the drill hole will be fed to the rover’s CheMin instrument on sol 2758. The X-ray diffraction patterns that CheMin acquires will tell us what minerals are present in the rock. That important data, in combination with Curiosity’s other instrument investigations, will help us untangle the complex history of how this outcrop formed, what the environment at Gale crater was like when it did, and how it has interacted with water between then and now.

In addition to CheMin’s taste of Glasgow, the ChemCam instrument will also give the drill target a sniff by shooting its LIBS laser inside the hole. ChemCam will also target other spots on the nearby bedrock at “Loch_na_Keal,” “Loch_Olabhat,” and “Loch_Trool.” With Mastcam, Curiosity will photograph the area with wide stereo mosaics, and will look at spots called “Ishriff_1” and “Ishriff_2” to see if the wind has moved any of the sand since Mastcam imaged these same locations 10 days ago. In addition, the ChemCam Remote Micro Imager will peer at the trough called “Calmac” on the Western Butte, and Curiosity will also perform several environmental monitoring activities this weekend.

As the Long-Term Planner for sols 2758-2760, my role is to look further ahead to the next few days and into the coming weeks. We will be chewing on the Glasgow sample for a while before we’re ready to spit it out and drive away – the SAM instrument will analyze the sample later this week, and CheMin will acquire more data as well – so today’s plan really is just a first taste!

May 6, 2020

Sols 2756-2757: Presenting Our Newest Drill Sample, 'Glasgow!'

Written by Vivian Sun, Planetary Geologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Close-up view of a drill hole on Mars

This image was taken by Mast Camera (Mastcam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2754. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech Download image ›

Our second try at drilling the "Glasgow" target proved successful and this morning we welcomed our 26th drill hole on Mars! (See picture above.) It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a little over a month since we drilled our last sample “Edinburgh.” Curiosity is certainly making quick progress in the “Glen Torridon” region.

The focus of today’s two-sol plan is portion characterization, which is the next step in our drill campaign sequence. This portion characterization step consists of Curiosity’s arm dropping a few portions of drill powder onto a surface, with Mastcam imaging before and after to check the drilled sample before delivering it to CheMin and SAM.

Aside from this important and exciting activity, the team also planned a variety of remote sensing activities to study the rocks and environment around Glasgow. ChemCam will be observing two targets on nodular bedrock, “Polwarth” and “Rob Roy Way,” which may give us insight into how these rocks interacted with water. Another two targets, “Valsgarth” and “Lunnain,” are located on less nodular portions of bedrock, and will help us characterize the typical composition of the rocks at our drill site. ChemCam’s final observation in this plan is a long-distance image of “Puffin,” which is a nodular crossbedded portion of the pediment cap.

A number of Mastcam images and mosaics are planned, including a large mosaic of a trough feature that continues the coverage from a mosaic in the previous plan. Part of this Mastcam mosaic will also expand high-resolution imaging of our workspace, which will help us target higher-resolution features in future plans. A MARDI image will also be acquired, and will serve as the baseline image for future change-detection observations while we are parked at the Glasgow drill site. Rounding out our plan is a suite of environmental observations aimed at characterizing local atmospheric conditions, especially now that we’re entering the season where dust activity may be picking up. As the Geology Keeper of the Plan today, it was a lot of fun putting together such a busy plan with the whole team!

May 4, 2020

Sols 2754-2755: Giving ‘Glasgow' Another Try!

Written by Lauren Edgar, Planetary Geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center
In this image of Mars, the shadow of the rover's arm is visible over the intended drill location

This image was taken by Front Hazard Avoidance Camera (Front Hazcam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2752. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

I was the Science Operations Working Group (SOWG) Chair last Friday when we planned to drill at the “Glasgow” target, so I was eagerly anticipating the images that would show us a new drill hole. Unfortunately, there’s no new drill hole to be seen. A minor issue with the MAHLI instrument caused the arm activities to stop prior to drilling. Today’s plan is focused on planning the drill again. I love the above Hazcam image which shows the shadow of the arm extended over the intended drill location, as if to say, “we will get you Glasgow!”

The first sol of today’s two-sol plan is devoted to drilling, and the second sol is packed with remote sensing activities. On the first sol, the drilling activities are accompanied by MAHLI and Mastcam documentation images. On the second sol, the remote sensing activities start with a Navcam dust devil movie and dust devil survey, and Navcam line-of-sight observation to monitor dust in the atmosphere. Then Mastcam will take a multispectral observation of the drill hole, followed by a Mastcam mosaic of a trough feature to document surface processes. ChemCam has a number of activities including observations of the bedrock targets “Marygold” and “Murra,” an RMI z-stack observation of the drill hole to help with future targeting, and a ChemCam pointing test. Mastcam will also document the ChemCam targets. Fingers crossed for a good day on Mars to see those new drill hole images!

May 1, 2020

Sols 2751-2753: 'Glas-going' to Drill!

Written by Abigail Fraeman, Planetary Geologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
An image of a rock on Mars called Glasgow

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity acquired this image using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover's robotic arm, on April 30, 2020, Sol 2749 of the Mars Science Laboratory Mission. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

To me, it seems like Curiosity was sitting on top of the Greenheugh pediment getting ready to drill “Edinburgh” just yesterday, and yet we’re already preparing to drill another rock in this weekend’s plan, a target we’ve named “Glasgow.” Combined with “Hutton,” these three drilled samples will give us a wonderful snapshot of the range of compositions of the three major geologic units we’ve explored in this region.

Wednesday’s pre-load test on Glasgow was successful, and even created a small divot where the drill tip pressed down onto the rock (visible in the center of the above image), which suggests this rock might be somewhat soft. The chemical data from ChemCam and APXS also were in family with other rocks in this area, so the team quickly decided we were go to continue with the full drill, which will execute in the second sol of the three-sol weekend plan. On the first sol of the plan, we will take Mastcam images of the rover’s deck, some sand-filled troughs in the area, and a mosaic to capture the view of nearby Tower Butte and Greenheugh pediment with a new perspective from our current location. We will also take some additional MAHLI images of areas in our workspace. The third sol of the plan has a lot of remote sensing, including Mastcam and Navcam environmental science observations, a Mastcam multispectral image and ChemCam passive spectral observation in the expected location of the drill tailings, a ChemCam z-stack of the expected drill hole, and ChemCam LIBS observations of an area near the drill spot, “Glasgow_2”, and “Canongate.”

Fingers crossed at least some socially-distant team members will be able to enjoy the traditional post-drill donut holes during planning on Monday morning!