MISSION UPDATES | December 9, 2020

Sols 2967-2968: Curiosity Heading to the Sands for the Holidays

Written by Ashley Stroupe, Mission Operations Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
an image of Mars
This image was taken by Front Hazard Avoidance Camera (Front Hazcam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2965. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Curiosity is making her way to "Sands of Forvie,” the large sand field we’ve been seeing in the orbital images. Today, the rover planners are trying to drive as far as possible and expect to reach the 'rubbly unit' that is on the way to Sands of Forvie. The drive is extending beyond where we can see by making use of guarded driving, allowing the rover to look for hazards and stop if conditions are unsafe. The total distance is about 65 meters.

Prior to hitting the road, Curiosity will collect MAHLI and APXS data on a large clast, “Dun Eideann,” that is in an otherwise rubbly workspace, as visible in the Front Hazcam image. This is part of our regular tracking of compositional changes and will help us characterize the clasts in this area. We are also taking some Mastcam multispectral images of “Island Davaar,” and collecting both Mastcam multispectral and ChemCam passive spectral data of targets “Obar Dheathaian,” and “Eilean.” All three targets are some nearby interesting-looking rocks that potentially could be meteorites. We are also taking observations of Shillhope Law with Mastcam and ChemCam LIBS. Mastcam is doing stereo images of the pediment, to get a better sense of its morphology, and distant rocks in areas named “Nairnsire” and “Peerie Minn.”

After the drive, on the second sol of the plan, we’re doing a lot of untargeted science. We have a lot of environmental observations, predominantly looking for dust devils, and an atmospheric argon measurement by APXS. In addition, we’re letting Curiosity choose her own targets using AEGIS – it is always interesting to see what she finds!