MISSION UPDATES | September 9, 2020

Sols 2878-2879: Opening Night

Written by Scott Guzewich, Atmospheric Scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Close-up view of Curiosity rover

This image was taken by Right Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2873. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Ten sols ago was our final dress rehearsal and today’s plan is opening night for an experiment that has been anticipated since we landed just over 8 years ago. After our successful drilling of our “Mary Anning 3” hole, bits of rock powder are waiting in the drill assembly for delivery to SAM. In today’s plan, we’ll extend the arm over the SAM inlets (the paddle shaped doors seen in this recent image of the rover’s deck) and rotate the drill backwards so that we drop off six portions of powdered rock.

Once inside SAM, the powdered bits of rock will be soaked a very special solution called TMAH (see the link above for the full 11 syllable name). TMAH will help our science team identify what fragments of organic (carbon-bearing) materials are present in the clay-rich rock of Mary Anning. SAM contains only two small containers of TMAH and so we’ve been waiting for 8 years for just the right rock to drill to use this very precious expendable commodity. The wait is finally over and SAM will hopefully soon give us new insight into the chemistry of ancient Mars.