MISSION UPDATES | July 7, 2021

Sols 3171-3172: Bingo, Drill Hole #32 on Mars!

Written by Lucy Thompson, Planetary Geologist at University of New Brunswick
This black and white image shows the Curiosity rover's shadow over a drill hole  on the rocky, sandy surface of Mars.

This image was taken by Right Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3170. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Despite not getting all the expected data down in our decisional pass this morning, we did receive enough information to confirm that we successfully drilled our 32nd hole on Mars, "Pontours." The missing data is expected to come down in the next pass, but at the time of writing this blog we are still some time away from that downlink. Without that information, we are not able to proceed with the planned drop of the drilled sample to CheMin. However, the team decided to plan for success, with the caveat that the downlink data may result in the drop to CheMin not taking place. If we do drop to CheMin, we will analyze the sample to determine the mineralogy. Will we see changes associated with the transition into the basal sulfate-bearing unit?

Regardless of whether we drop to CheMin, the science team was still able to plan a number of scientific observations to help monitor the atmosphere, detect changes in our workspace associated with the drill activities, and continue to characterize the terrain around us. The nodular “Douville” and smoother “Coubjours” rock targets in the workspace will be analyzed by ChemCam LIBS and imaged by Mastcam to look for any changes in chemistry associated with the nodules. We will acquire Mastcam multispectral data on the fresh, "Pontours" drill fines surrounding our new drill hole and a ChemCam RMI image of the drill hole to facilitate future targeting. Curiosity will also take a number of Mastcam and Navcam observations to monitor the atmosphere.

As the APXS strategic planner, I had a relatively quiet day from a planning perspective. We are not able to use the APXS while we have drill sample cached. However, I made good use of the time by starting to plan APXS observations we would like to make before we leave this location. This involves advocating for the observations to the rest of the MSL science team and interfacing with the rover engineers to plan the measurements. We are also eagerly awaiting being able to analyze the drill powder with APXS to compare with the mineralogy determined by CheMin.