MISSION UPDATES | April 17, 2020

Sols 2737-2739: MAHLI Up in the Air

Written by Melissa Rice, Planetary Geologist at Western Washington University
The MAHLI instrument operating on Mars

This image was taken by Right Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2736. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

The MAHLI instrument is literally up in the air, as today’s blog image shows. There was an issue with MAHLI on sol 2735 that caused Curiosity’s arm motion to stop before the instrument was positioned on the rock target “Creig.” Before the issue occurred, Curiosity had used the Dust Removal Tool (DRT) to brush the target clean, as you can see by the circle on the rock near the bottom left of the image.

The good news is that the APXS instrument still acquired its data on sol 2735, even though the arm was pointing it up and away from the intended rock. This dataset can tell us about the chemical composition of Mars’ atmosphere, and we had been intending to collect this information in the near future anyway. Looks like Curiosity was just eager to study the atmospheric chemistry ahead of schedule!

The plan for this weekend, covering sols 2737-2739, focuses on diagnosing the issue with MAHLI. In addition, Curiosity will continue to explore the vicinity by taking Mastcam images of the Creig DRT spot, the outcrop in the foreground, the rover’s wheel tracks, the pediment behind the rover. Curiosity will also use the ChemCam instrument to study small-scale features in the outcrop, which is rife with veins and nodules: these targets are named “Beinn_an_Dudhaich,” “Beinn_Alligin,” “Beinn_Mhor,” “Ben_Arthur,” and “Ben_Wyvis.”

Once the issue with MAHLI is understood, Curiosity will resume driving northeast to the next area of interest.