MISSION UPDATES | August 28, 2020

Sols 2867-2869: Final Dress Rehearsal

Written by Scott Guzewich, Atmospheric Scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Curiosity's wheel is visible in this image of Mars

This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2865. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Studying the clay-rich rocks of Gale Crater is one of the reasons it was chosen as the landing site for our rover. Curiosity has spent eight years driving and searching for a rock sample that is the best choice for using a precious and expendable resource of the SAM instrument: tetramethylammonium hydroxide, or TMAH for short. SAM flew to Mars with two of its sample cups containing a tiny amount of this special compound, which makes it easier for the SAM instrument to detect the organic (carbon-rich) compounds in the rocks that could help us understand whether the necessary ingredients for life were present in Gale Crater when it was better termed "Gale Lake."

This weekend, we will conduct a dry run of the TMAH experiment to finetune the procedures and make sure everything goes smoothly when we drop off a tiny bit of powdered rock from our upcoming drill hole (on the same piece of bedrock as the Mary Anning drill hole) into one of the two TMAH-containing sample cups. If all goes well, when we conduct the experiment for real in the sols ahead, we’ll get a fascinating view into the chemistry of Gale Lake.