MISSION UPDATES | September 10, 2021

Sols 3235-3237: The Colors of Mars

Written by Scott Guzewich, Atmospheric Scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Soft-focus image of the Curiosity rover’s Mastcam calibration target, covered with a thin layer of light brown dust. The target is a small, sundial-shaped installation on top of the rover.

This image was taken by Mast Camera (Mastcam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3230. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Download image ›

One of our ChemCam LIBS targets in today’s plan is named "Chocolate Bloc." And aside from making me hungry, it reminded me of the wide range of colors of Mars. Colors ranging from the bright white of its polar caps, to the deep chocolate browns of the sand dunes, to a thousand shades of red, pink, tan, and yellow. It reminded me of a scene in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy of novels where the characters try to identify all the various colors they see outside on the planet’s surface. But color is often very much in the eye of the beholder and making it as uniform as possible, so different locations can be properly compared, is an important job. Mastcam regularly takes pictures of its (now very dusty and seemingly uniform in color) calibration target for this very purpose (this is the most recent one from last weekend).

Aside from getting the measure of Chocolate Bloc, our primary goal this weekend is for SAM to study the material from our Maria Gordon drill hole. SAM will heat the material to very high temperatures to determine what it’s made of and how water may have interacted with the rock in the distant past. We’ll also do a variety of imaging with Mastcam and a ChemCam long-distance image of Rafael Navarro mountain.