MISSION UPDATES | March 30, 2020

Sols 2717-2719: The Poetry of Drilling on Mars

Written by Melissa Rice, Planetary Geologist at Western Washington University
An image of Mount Sharp on Mars

This image was taken by Right Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2714. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Full download ›

Curiosity’s drill campaigns are like poetry in fixed verse. A predefined set of activities has to occur in a sequence: first Curiosity must assess an outcrop for drilling, then drill and extract a sample, then process and characterize the sample, then deliver the sample to the CheMin instrument for analysis, then prepare the SAM instrument, then deliver the sample to SAM for analysis, and finally dump the sample on the ground.

All of this happens over a period of a couple weeks, and when we are planning the science observations for any given sol, we need to work within the scaffolding of the drill campaign sequence. But like poets crafting sonnets in iambic pentameter, we find freedom within the fixed structure to create something new.

Such is the case for today’s plan, covering sols 2717-2719: as Curiosity proceeds with the Edinburgh drill campaign, we use free blocks of time here and there to explore the landscape. The main structure of this three-sol plan includes a second analysis of the Edinburgh drill sample with CheMin and the preconditioning of the SAM instrument to prepare for an Evolved Gas Analysis (EGA) observation next week.

As for the other science observations:

Mastcam peers at the
Enigmatic outcrop with
A panorama.

ChemCam shoots three rocks:
“Albany,” “Alloway,” and

Pediment surface
Revealed by ChemCam's Remote
Micro Imager.

Navcam movies seek
To capture swirls of dust that
Sweep the horizon.