MISSION UPDATES | October 29, 2019

Sols 2570-2571: Pit Stop on the Way to Central Butte

Written by Catherine O'Connell-Cooper, Planetary Geologist at University of New Brunswick
Front Hazard Camera image shows our current workspace, with Central Butte in the background.

Front Hazard Camera image shows our current workspace, with Central Butte in the background. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Today we planned a 2-sol plan. Over the weekend, Curiosity drove around 40 meters, bringing us closer to Central Butte, and ended up on a small patch of bedrock. We are making a pit stop here, before driving another 20 meters closer to the Butte at the end of this plan, as we investigate contacts (i.e. boundaries) between what appear to be different units of bedrock here.

The Geology (GEO) theme group planned both contact science and remote imaging science. APXS is doing a short “Touch and Go” measurement on the target “Ben Hope,” a small laminated bedrock block. MAHLI will image this target, and ChemCam will use its laser to investigate this rock and another similar target “Taynish.”

Remote science is a big part of our work as we approach the Butte. In addition to supporting contact science in our current workspace, Mastcam will take several images of the Butte, to help categorize the bedrock units and potential contacts between them. Mastcam will also take multispectral images, which can be extremely useful in identifying differences in rock types that the human eye might miss.

The Environmental Theme Group (ENV) will look at the environmental conditions (clouds, atmospheric dust) in Gale and beyond. Mastcam will take “full tau” and “crater rim” images, which allows the ENV group to quantify dust in the crater and overhead in the atmosphere. At the top of each and every hour and in a series of extended hour-long measurements, the Rover Environmental Monitoring System (REMS) acquires temperature, pressure, humidity, and UV radiation measurements. DAN (Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons) continues its search for subsurface hydrogen, with frequent passive (utilizing cosmic rays as a source of neutrons to measure hydrogen) and post-drive active (actively shooting neutrons from the rover) measurements.