MISSION UPDATES | December 20, 2019

Sols 2631-2633: Exciting Plans for New Year's Eve

Written by Dawn Sumner, Planetary Geologist at University of California Davis
The slope steepens upward toward the top of Western Butte. We planned a drive that will end near the top of the light-colored bedrock outcrop.

The slope steepens upward toward the top of Western Butte. We planned a drive that will end near the top of the light-colored bedrock outcrop. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Today, we put together our last plan of the decade! On Wednesday, we planned activities for Curiosity up to December 30th. Today, we planned sols 2631-2633, which will be the last 3 martian days before we come back to planning bright and early on January 2, 2020.

We came into planning well prepared to ask for lots of good science. Wednesday's team wanted a number of activities that had to be postponed due to the late arrival of the necessary downlink data. We picked up these activities, including some very nice MAHLI images of the block "Blackwaterfoot." The rover planners put together both a closeup to evaluate the grain size of the rock and a large MAHLI mosaic to look at the geometry of the layers. The textures in Blackwaterfoot are interesting - and so is the chemistry. APXS and ChemCam will analyze the elemental composition of Blackwaterfoot, and ChemCam will target a similar block, "Clashnessie" to see how much variation there is among the blocks.

We are also interested in the composition of the bedrock, and we planned a DRT and APXS analysis of the target "Ben Arnaboll." Mastcam will image these targets, take a nice stereo image of the butte we're on, image the distant scenery to the north, and take another image of "Aryshire" to look for changes over the long holiday break. In addition, we'll do a drive up the slope (see image above) and take a large mosaic of the landscape to the south. This one will complement a similar mosaic we took earlier to give us good stereo information on the rough topography we'll be investigating in the new decade.

In terms of monitoring our environment, we are looking for dust devils and characterizing the dust and scattering in the atmosphere with images of the crater rim, several image suites of the sky, and Mastcam images of the sun. To take a picture of the sun, we use filter 7, which blocks enough of the sunlight that the camera sensor isn't damaged. Filter 7 is Mastcam with sunglasses! We'll also look for clouds, measure the weather conditions with REMS and characterize the subsurface with DAN. Finally, APXS will measure the amount of argon in the atmosphere. It can make this measurement without moving the arm since APXS points directly forward with the arm stowed.

None of the activities in the plan will be executed until December 31st, so they will be Curiosity's New Year's Eve celebration. Luckily, Curiosity's celebration won't keep it from working hard on January 1 and 2 since we have dozens of good observations planned for those days, too. We'll have lots of interesting data to start the new decade!