MISSION UPDATES | May 7, 2021

Sols 3112-3114: Always a Silver Lining!

Written by Catherine O'Connell-Cooper, Planetary Geologist at University of New Brunswick
MAHLI image, showing a closeup of the “Gourdon” target, taken from a standoff of 3.5 cm.

MAHLI image, showing a closeup of the “Gourdon” target, taken from a standoff of 3.5 cm. This image was taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover's robotic arm, on May 6, 2021, Sol 3110. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Download image ›

Things not going to plan doesn’t have to mean a disaster - sometimes there is a silver lining to be found and today was one of those days.

We had planned to drive a couple of metres in our last plan, but Curiosity pulled the drive up short after less than half a metre when autonomous sensors showed the terrain was a bit trickier than expected so the rover stopped to ask for more instructions from Earth. Getting off the edge of Mont Mercou is testing our driving abilities, with some steep and tricky terrain, but our fantastic engineers and rover planners (“RP”) are stubborn! Just picture them rolling up their sleeves, in home offices in living rooms and basements around the country and getting challenged by planning across this tough terrain. They have their work cut out for them – and that is before the geology theme group (GEO) takes a look at the images and picks out targets that are interesting to us, but which can also prove challenging for the arm engineers to safely reach with the APXS and MAHLI instruments!

In this case, the drive stopping short worked in GEOs’ favour. MAHLI imaging of an APXS target on freshly broken rock (as the rover drove over it) from Wednesday (“Gourdon”) revealed very intriguing textures. From this slightly different angle, we were able to get both Mastcam multispectral imaging and ChemCam on a section of this target (at “Grignols”) in today’s plan – an opportunity we would have missed if the drive had gone as planned. APXS, MAHLI and ChemCam were also able to analyze more of these beautiful veins (“Pezuls”) and unusual, rough and twisted textures (“Le Bugue” and “Grives”).

Our stalled drive also provided an opportunity for bonus multispectral imaging of the workspace we had been aiming for – this time in the Mastcam target “Mayac” which includes the “tiger stripe” rock that we are itching to analyze! We hope to end up here for Monday’s contact science, so extra imaging will be very useful in picking targets of interest. Looking forward to finally getting to the “tiger stripe” rock!