MISSION UPDATES | December 3, 2021

Sols 3316-3318: "Gifts From Above"

Written by Lauren Edgar, Planetary Geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center
This is a black and white image of large boulders, low hills and smooth sand on Mars.

This image was taken by Front Hazard Avoidance Camera (Front Hazcam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3314. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Curiosity is continuing to investigate a juicy workspace full of a variety of boulders, and one team member described these as "gifts from above" which sounds like the perfect description for these beautiful rocks! These boulders have tumbled downslope from the pediment capping unit above us, providing a great opportunity to investigate the chemistry of the different textures that we see here. Today’s 3-sol plan is focused on wrapping up contact science at these boulders and then getting back on the road to the south.

I was on shift as SOWG Chair today and we did our best to pack this plan full of science. Normally we would only plan one contact science target in a weekend, but we managed to get two targets for MAHLI and APXS observations (named "Whaligoe Steps" and "Laurentia") and an additional MAHLI mosaic across the boulder which includes “Whaligoe Steps" to assess different textures. We also planned ChemCam observations on "Small Seal Islands," “Dura Den," and "Sarclet" to investigate variability in the chemistry of these boulders, and Mastcam mosaics to document their sedimentary textures and spectral characteristics. In addition to all of the geology observations, Curiosity will have a busy weekend monitoring the sky and searching for dust devils and clouds at different times of day. On the third sol we planned a drive to the south, heading towards "Maria Gordon notch." Stay tuned for some beautiful views ahead!