MISSION UPDATES | December 19, 2019

Sols 2620-2630: All Dressed up…

Written by Michelle Minitti, Planetary Geologist at Framework
Sols 2620-2630: All Dressed up…

...and no data to (touch and) go on. We anxiously awaited the images from the end of our 20 m drive further up “Western Butte,” as we anticipated having both the bedrock that covers this part of the butte and an intriguing dark block, possibly shed from a layer higher up on the butte, in the workspace. However, the two communication passes that were to deliver the data we needed to plan observations in the workspace only delivered a fraction of the expected data. The dearth of images meant that we could not target ChemCam, MAHLI, or APXS, or plan a drive. Thus, we settled into our home for the end of 2019 and did our best to fill the 11 sols covered by this plan despite our downlink challenges.

When we plan a large number of sols at one time, we cannot fill each sol with many activities, as it is very complicated to build and verify such a plan, and it increases the chances something will go wrong that will then impact all subsequent planned activities. To build a long but lower risk plan, we utilize sols that include only REMS data acquisition. For this plan, Sols 2622 to 2625 and 2627 to 2630 will be REMS-only sols. REMS will keep going on the other sols, too, giving us an unbroken record of Martian weather through the end of the year.

Sols 2620, 2621 and 2626 mark the few sols of the plan when the rover will be a bit more active. On Sol 2620, we fit in activities that could be planned with the little targeting data we had. Mastcam was able to plan a multispectral observation of the dark block in the workspace, named “Blackwaterfoot,” two images of the target “Ayrshire” for the purposes of change detection, and a large mosaic of the “Greenheugh Pediment,” of which we have a particularly nice view from the topside of the butte. ChemCam was able to plan two untargeted observations in the workspace using its autonomous target selection capability. No targeting data are required to look at the sky, so Mastcam and Navcam team up for observations of atmospheric dust load, dust devils and clouds. These activities will finish by the time planning starts on Friday, giving the operations team one last chance to recover from any issues and keep Curiosity on track up for a productive end to December.

From Sol 2620 into 2621, APXS will measure atmospheric argon, and then CheMin will attempt to clean out some previously used cells that have sample powder stubbornly stuck in them. On Sol 2626, DAN will ping the ground beneath us with passive and active measurements, ChemCam will carry out several calibration activities, Mastcam will image Ayrshire again to look for changes since Sol 2620, and then Mastcam and Navcam will acquire another round of observations of atmospheric dust load, dust devils and clouds. From Sol 2626 into 2627, SAM will measure atmospheric methane.

Late in the planning day today, a subsequent communication pass brought us the full view of our parking spot, one image of which is included above. The workspace is as promising as we had hoped! Studying it will be quite the way to start off 2020.