MISSION UPDATES | February 22, 2021

Sols 3040-3041: The Mars Fleet

Written by Scott Guzewich, Atmospheric Scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
black and white image of Mars

This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3038. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Eleven (Curiosity, Perseverance, InSight, Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, Mars Express, the Trace Gas Orbiter, the Mars Orbiter mission, Tianwen-1, and Hope) spacecraft are now concurrently exploring Mars from the surface and orbit. That incredible fleet produces synergistic science discoveries that would not be possible with any one spacecraft in isolation. In today’s plan, we will conduct one such joint observation with the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO). TGO studies the chemical composition of the martian atmosphere as we do with ChemCam through a “passive sky” observation. In a passive sky observation, ChemCam looks at the sky at different angles and positions and we are able to learn about the properties of dust, water ice clouds, and measure abundances of atmospheric gases like oxygen. By combining our work with TGO, we can measure the abundance of such gases from the surface all the way up to the top of the atmosphere!

Outside of this atmospheric observation, today’s plan was a routine touch-and-go. We picked a representative piece of bedrock in the workspace (“Plazac”) for MAHLI and APXS to study and then focused much of our remote sensing science on a fascinating ~18 ft tall cliff (“Mont Mercou”) that can be seen at the top left of this Navcam image. Both Mastcam and ChemCam will image Mont Mercou today and we are driving toward it over the next several plans.