MISSION UPDATES | November 29, 2021

Sol 3312: Thanksgiving 10 Years Ago…

Written by Susanne Schwenzer, Planetary Geologist at The Open University
This is a black and white image of a dark clouds with few light clouds in the background taken by the Curiosity rover on Mars.

This image was taken by Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3309. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL. Download image ›

Ten years ago, this past weekend, on the 26th of November 2011, Saturday of the Thanksgiving weekend in the US, I burnt a T-shirt. Wait, … what? Well, waiting for the launch of a spacecraft is never easy, but it also takes time, weather checks, count down holds…. I sat in my flat… changing from the sofa to the table and back. Staring at my laptop screen at the static image of the rocket, just a puff of white vapour here and there, getting nervous, and more nervous, and when I couldn’t sit still anymore, I thought I’d do my ironing. Standing up, something for my hands to do… and then … T-15 seconds, … 10, 9, … Main engine start...Zero... 'And liftoff of the Atlas V with Curiosity — seeking clues to the planetary puzzle about life on Mars' … at 10:02 am EST the rocket soared into the slightly cloudy skies, leaving a beautiful white trail. I cheered her on, watched her as the cameras followed her way up and into space … until, well, Curiosity was safely on her way, and the rest is history! If you want to relive the moment, have a look here (but switch that iron off before!).

Now, ten years later, Curiosity keeps herself busy exploring Gale crater, and today this means having one last look at the Zechstein drill hole and its surroundings. MAHLI is looking at Zechstein and so is ChemCam with a LIBS observation, which Mastcam will document. Mastcam will investigate the target "Ardsheal," a name which you may have heard before because it is change detection target that we have looked at several times while we were stationary at Zechstein for the drilling. Mastcam will also look at the rover deck, which we are monitoring in regular intervals. Another regular activity, the atmospheric monitoring, is in the plan again. ChemCam plans a long distance RMI to look at all the highly interesting and variable structures in the landscape. We have been seeing many interesting features lately, including ones such as on the ChemCam RMI pictured at the top of this blog. Let’s see what the new ones will reveal!

There is a drive in the plan, and after the drive Curiosity will look at an area with many boulders to give some context on future investigations. Last but not least, MARDI will get a new picture too.