MISSION UPDATES | November 23, 2021

Sols 3309-3311: There's Always Room for Seconds

Written by Lauren Edgar, Planetary Geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center
A black and white image of Curiosity's arm touching the surface of Mars.

This image was taken by Front Hazard Avoidance Camera (Front Hazcam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3305 (2021-11-22 23:16:20 UTC). Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

As we head into a long weekend for the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, Curiosity will take advantage of some extra time at the Zechstein drill location to conduct even more science. The team has been busy these past two days planning 6 sols (plus a soliday) on Mars, which will give the rover plenty of work to do while the team takes a break from planning later this week.

While most of us would shy away from leftovers from THREE years ago, Curiosity is diving into a sample from the “Rock Hall” drill target which we’ve been carrying since our time on Vera Rubin ridge (Sol 2261). It turns out that the multisol plans this week are a great opportunity to do some power hungry SAM and CheMin analyses. SAM will conduct an experiment with the “Rock Hall” sample to test how organics are preserved in the presence of mixed iron oxides and clays on Mars. Speaking of leftovers, CheMin will take advantage of the “Zechstein” sample (only from three weeks ago…) which hasn’t been dumped yet. We will analyze it again to measure if it changed while it sat in the warmer temperatures within CheMin. The rest of the plan includes generous helpings of Mastcam and ChemCam to document the nearby stratigraphy and analyze the composition of bedrock, diagenetic features, and float blocks that have tumbled down from higher up on these slopes. In addition to all of the geology observations, Curiosity will also be busy with a lot of environmental monitoring to assess the dust content in the atmosphere and search for dust devils and clouds.

I’ve been on shift as LTP this week, and it’s been fun to see how eager the team is to fill the additional time for science. I’m heading into the weekend feeling thankful for all of the great work conducted by the team and the rover this week!