MISSION UPDATES | February 6, 2020

Sols 2667-2668: GO for Drill at Hutton

Written by Catherine O'Connell-Cooper, Planetary Geologist at University of New Brunswick
MAHLI close up of the Hutton drill target.

MAHLI close up of the Hutton drill target. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

We are parked at the "Hutton" drill site, our next drill site on Mars. Over the past couple of sols, we have focused on assessing the suitability of the bedrock here as a drill target. APXS and ChemCam investigated the chemical composition to make sure that it falls within our desired compositional range. The engineers and rover planners at JPL assessed physical parameters and properties (for example looking at rock coherency, presence of veins, homogeneity of the surface). As the target was found to be a good candidate, drilling is a GO, so today marks the beginning of the drill activity, with drilling planned for the second sol of this two-sol plan.

During the first sol of the plan, MAHLI will take several images of the “discard site,” where our drilled sample will be dumped once CheMin and SAM have finished analyzing the sample. Drilling takes a lot of power, so other science activities were necessarily curtailed. The geology theme group (GEO) squeezed in two ChemCam LIBS targets “Tarbat Ness” (bedrock) and “Creag na Bruaich” (a float rock). The environmental theme group (ENV) added a pair of Mastcam images looking at dust and opacity, a Navcam dust devil movie, and some standard REMS and DAN environmental monitoring activities.

Following a very long overnight nap to conserve energy, drilling is scheduled to take place on the afternoon of the second sol. Once drilling has completed, Mastcam will image the new drill hole (planning for success!) the “tailings” generated by the percussion drill method, and the drill bit used to ensure it is in good condition.

We will be eagerly awaiting the first images down after drilling, to see if we have the 24th successful drill hole on Mars!