MISSION UPDATES | July 9, 2021

Sols 3173-3175: Cleaning CheMin

Written by Ken Herkenhoff, Planetary Geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center
This black and white image shows a quarter-size drill hole on the rocky, sandy surface of Mars. Curiosity's shadow is also present in the bottom left corner of the image.

This image was taken by Mast Camera (Mastcam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3171. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Download image ›

Late in planning Wednesday the data needed to confirm that it was safe to drop some of the latest drill sample into CheMin were received, so no changes to the Sol 3171-3172 plan were needed. Early this morning, the results of the planned CheMin analysis were received, and the team determined that no further analysis was needed. So the CheMin team decided to dump the sample and clean out the cell in preparation for future mineralogical analyses. SAM decided to analyze the Pontours drill sample, so a SAM preconditioning activity was added to the 3-sol weekend plan. The variety of options for the weekend plan and the need to make tactical decisions this morning made it an interesting day for me as SOWG Chair! Once the path forward was agreed upon and the high-priority CheMin and SAM activities scheduled, the uplink team turned to planning other activities, of which there are many: On Sol 3173, Mastcam will acquire multispectral images of "Chanterac," a potential APXS target, before ChemCam uses its laser to analyze the wall of the Pontours drill hole and acquires spectra of freshly disturbed sand at "Cendrieux." Mastcam will then document the LIBS holes in Pontours and take a 12x2 stereo mosaic of fractured and lineated terrain dubbed "Le Coly." Finally, CheMin will dump the drill sample.

Observations on the next sol begin with Navcam searching for dust devils and measuring dust in the lower part of the atmosphere. Then Mastcam will acquire a 10x1 stereo mosaic of possible alteration features at "Bussac" before ChemCam uses LIBS again, this time on a bedrock block with lots of nodules called "Archignac." ChemCam will also acquire spectra of another nodular target called "Fergeas" and the Right Mastcam will document the LIBS spots on Archignac. The rover will then take a nap before the SAM preconditioning in the evening.

The Sol 3175 plan begins with a Navcam dust devil movie and Mastcam measurements of dust in the atmosphere above the rover. ChemCam will then fire its laser again, this time at "Augignac," another nodular bedrock target, followed by Right Mastcam documentation of the LIBS spots. Later in the afternoon, when lighting of targets east of the rover will be better, the ChemCam RMI will take a 10x1 mosaic of layering in the flank of Mt. Sharp. Mastcam will then acquire a 4x1 stereo mosaic of the layering, and Navcam will survey the sky. Early in the morning of Sol 3176, Navcam will search for clouds and again measure the dust in the lower part of the atmosphere. Finally, Mastcam will also measure dust at various levels in the atmosphere. If all goes well, MSL will be very busy this weekend!