MISSION UPDATES | January 19, 2021

Sols 3003-3006: On the Road Again

Written by Vivian Sun, Planetary Geologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
This image was taken by Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3001.

This image was taken by Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3001. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL. Download image ›

We began planning today with the good news that we received some of the previously expected data and could plan “targeted” observations on specific targets identified in the new images. One catch was that higher-resolution workspace images, a pre-requisite to using the rover arm’s Dust Removal Tool (DRT), were not received in time for today’s planning, but we were still able to plan a plan chock full of remote sensing and contact science without the DRT. Today’s plan covered four sols, one sol longer than our usual 3-sol weekend plans due to the US holiday on Monday.

The APXS and MAHLI target of choice this weekend is a target called “Tomb of the Eagles,” which will give us high-resolution composition and image data over the typical bedrock at this location. ChemCam will also acquire measurements on Tomb of the Eagles, which is useful for comparing observations from different instruments on the same target. Other planned ChemCam observations of “Geocrab,” “Parallel Roads,” and “Watch Stone” also aim to characterize the compositional variability of the local bedrock, including nodular and veiny textures that have been previously observed in this area (see image above). The latter two targets were selected for especially long rasters (20 points instead of the usual 5-10) in order to better characterize chemical variability in these rocks. Mastcam will also be busy this weekend, taking documentation images of automated ChemCam AEGIS observations from the previous plan as well as of a possible meteorite, “Obar Dheathain.” We will also take two larger mosaics of the local landscape in stereo coverage, which is useful for assessing the 3-dimensional properties of these rocks. One mosaic is on the exposed outcrop right next to our workspace; these outcrops appear as ridges in orbital images and on-the-ground images will help us determine how these ridges formed. The second mosaic looks farther away at the contact between the fractured intermediate unit and the rubbly unit on top of it. Other activities in this weekend plan include a routine APXS calibration activity, and many atmospheric observations monitoring the environment, including Navcam movies, dust devil surveys, and Mastcam taus. On Sol 3005, we will drive and continue our path to the sulfate-bearing unit. On Sol 3006, we will let Curiosity take a breather, with just REMS atmospheric measurements and basic engineering activities in the plan. After this long weekend, Curiosity and her planning team will return refreshed for more planning next week!