MISSION UPDATES | June 11, 2021

Sols 3146-3148: Keep Your Shoes On

Written by Melissa Rice, Planetary Geologist at Western Washington University
This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3145.

This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3145. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

“Not a place for the barefoot martians!” was the first thing Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada said this morning when he saw today’s new images. Indeed, the rough textures in the outcrop would be tough going for all but the most calloused feet, martian or otherwise. (Aluminum wheels, however, seem to roll over them just fine!)

The Navcam image above shows the rocks that are currently under Curiosity’s right front wheel, which are chock full of lumpy concretions and bright, fracture-filling veins. These features are diagenetic, meaning they formed after the initial emplacement of the rock, when groundwater flowed through the bedrock and left mineral deposits behind. Because they are harder than their host rock, the diagenetic features are more resistant to erosion. Over many millennia, the wind abrades the rock around them, leaving the lumps, bumps, fins and ridges that you see protruding from the otherwise flat outcrops.

We have been closely tracking the occurrences of different diagenetic features recently as Curiosity continues to traverse uphill. That’s the theme of today’s plan for the weekend as well, with ChemCam observations of the nodule targets “Cantillac” and “Lacropte,” and MAHLI and APXS observations of the smooth spot “Monpazier” and the lumpy spot “Nabriat” (which you can see just above Curiosity’s “elbow” sticking out in the image above). Mastcam is going crazy for diagenesis as well, with multispectral observations of the nodules at targets “Eymet” and Nabriat, and a stereo mosaic covering nodules and veins around the target “Granat.”

Following these activities, Curiosity will continue driving uphill, and then will make several observations of the atmosphere. When the team returns to work on Monday morning, we’ll see where Curiosity wound up and how the diagenetic features have changed – and maybe it will be OK for the martians to kick their shoes off.