MISSION UPDATES | March 10, 2021

Sol 3056-3057: Perched on top…

Written by Susanne Schwenzer, Planetary Geologist at The Open University
This image was taken by the Front Hazard Avoidance Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3054. It shows APXS measuring the target 'Nontron.'

This image was taken by the Front Hazard Avoidance Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3054. It shows APXS measuring the target 'Nontron.' Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

There is a lot to be looking out for at Curiosity’s current parking position. First, and foremost, there is the drill target Nontron, which has been investigated by APXS and will be drilled in this plan. An image of APXS on the target is shown in the image above. Nontron, while of course a town in France, is also the namesake for a very famous clay mineral, famous among Mars researchers and enthusiasts, as it is one of the first clay minerals identified from orbit. Clays are fascinating minerals that can store water and thus make an environment more habitable. But will Curiosity find nontronite at Nontron… well, that is to be seen once the drill is successful, CheMin and SAM have done their measurements and all the data are analyzed. Stay tuned!

This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3052.
This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3052. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

The drill is not the only exciting feature in view of the rover. Have a close look at this Navcam image. You cannot miss that rock perched on top of Mont Mercou, which now has the target name ‘Rocamadour.’ The question is: Is Rocamadour made of the same material as the rest of Mont Mercou? Mastcam is about to find this out as it is targeting one of its two multispectral observations on this target. The second multispectral investigation is of the Nontron drill fines. Mastcam is also starting a stereo imaging campaign of Mont Mercou and investigating a block further away called ‘Grand Brassac.’

ChemCam is also looking at the Nontron drill fines with a passive investigation and has two RMI long distance imaging investigations on targets ‘Teyjat’ and ‘Vergt,’ both to look at the many fascinating details that Mont Mercou has to offer. And, to quote one of the mission leads during today’s planning: ‘Mont Mercou is big, but it is tiny compared to what is ahead of us up the hill!’. But for the moment, fingers crossed to find nontronite at Nontron!