MISSION UPDATES | January 25, 2021

Sols 3010-3012: Bonjour, Nontron (Mars)

Written by Ashley Stroupe, Mission Operations Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
A view of Mars

This image was taken by Right Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3008. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Curiosity is continuing to make her way through the fractured intermediate unit toward the sulfate unit. After an 80-meter drive in our last plan, Curiosity has officially crossed into the new quadrant “Nontron” and parked with this amazing view (see image). And after more than 1000 sols visiting Scotland, Curiosity is now learning French! There are more details about this new Nontron quadrant in the Sol 3007 blog.

Curiosity will be starting off the weekend taking a 360-degree, 120-frame Mastcam panorama of this spectacular location, along with some more close-up images of rocks in the rover’s vicinity. These other observations include a bright-red rock in the workspace called “La Rogue Gageac” and some pebbles (to look at movement and stratigraphy). Later on the afternoon first sol, Curiosity will be doing contact science on two targets, La Rogue Gageac and one a normal-colored rock named “Gageac et Rouillac.” We’ll brush La Rogue Gageac in order to make sure we are examining a clean surface. Then, both targets will be examined with MAHLI and APXS. This will help us to understand the local variability, as well as fit in to our regular cadence of observations to track changes in the geology and mineralogy along our route.

On the second sol of the plan, Mastcam will do an additional multispectral image of La Rogue Gageac. Then, MAHLI will take a close-up look at the middle wheel in order to examine recent changes in wear seen in recent imaging. The wear doesn’t present a risk or concern, but these additional images from another angle will provide more data and insight to the engineering team. Once the arm is stowed, Curiosity will resume the trek toward the sulfate unit. Today’s drive is about 50 meters along our strategic route. The terrain is challenging, being ridged and rocky, giving the rover drivers a fun challenge. The drive is skirting around a ridge that we can’t see behind, in order to remain mostly on the terrain that we can see and characterize. The rover will be driving through a patch that is occluded from our current location, so the rover planners are using guarded driving, which allows Curiosity to evaluate the path ahead for hazards.

The third sol will include a lot of untargeted observations, mostly geared toward environmental science. Observations include early morning line-of-sight, zenith, superhorizon, and dust devil images with Navcam, a solar Tau and crater rim extinction by Mastcam, and a lot of DAN, RAD, and REMS as always.