MISSION UPDATES | April 1, 2020

Sols 2722-2723: Portion to Exhaustion – The Drilled Fines, Not Curiosity!

Written by Lucy Thompson, Planetary Geologist at University of New Brunswick
An individual frame of a Mars mosaics taken by NASA's Curiosity rover.

Individual frame of one of the ChemCam RMI long distance mosaics, taken on Sol 2719. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL. Download image ›

The primary focus of our two-sol plan is to prepare the drill bit assembly to dump the remaining “Edinburgh” drilled sample (portion to exhaustion), so that it can be analyzed in the upcoming weekend plan with the APXS and MAHLI instruments for chemistry and texture respectively. Sample has successfully been delivered to both Curiosity’s internal CheMin and SAM instruments, and we are awaiting the results of the mineralogy and volatile/isotope chemistry, with the 3rd night of CheMin analysis in this plan. The Edinburgh sample represents the blocky, dark grey sandstone, pediment-capping unit that overlies the Murray mudstone. The science team are interested to see how the mineralogy and chemistry might differ between these two rocks types, given that they were likely deposited in different environments.

While Curiosity has been parked here on the pediment, analyzing the Edinburgh sample, we have been acquiring a number of ChemCam RMI long distance mosaics to document the area around us; in particular, to look at features associated with a “washboard” pattern observed from orbit. In the plan tosol we are acquiring two more of these RMI mosaics. ChemCam will also be used in its active LIBS mode to continue documenting compositional variability of the bedrock immediately surrounding the rover, analyzing the “Phlanaid Mars” and “Kinesswood Sandstone” targets. Mastcam will take a supporting documentation image of the ChemCam LIBS targets, as well as an image of the Edinburgh drill hole and surrounding drill fines to ensure that it is safe for MAHLI to image them with the lens cover open in the next plan.

Environmental activities in this plan include two Navcam dust devil survey observations and a movie, Mastcam basic tau and crater rim extinction observations, and a Mastcam Phobos video. Standard REMS, RAD and DAN passive activities are also planned.

As the APXS strategic planner today, it was a relatively quiet day, but the APXS team are eager to analyze the Edinburgh drilled powder that we plan to dump from the rover at the weekend! I will be busy on Friday helping to plan this measurement and thinking ahead to APXS observations we would like to make once we drive away from here.