MISSION UPDATES | December 15, 2021

Sols 3328-3329: Out of the Shadows

Written by Michelle Minitti, Planetary Geologist at Framework
This image was taken by Right Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3327.

This image was taken by Right Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3327. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Our Sol 3326 drive was successful, completing our shot through the Maria Gordon notch, with its spectacular structures and deep shadows, and continuing our climb up Mount Sharp. To keep MAHLI safe over the upcoming holiday break, this plan was the last chance to take images with MAHLI’s cover open until we plan the sols post-holiday, so the team was on the hunt for a good target. For MAHLI and APXS, we started trying to target one of the thin, gray vein features cutting across the bedrock directly in front of the rover. However, their small size and the topography on and around them prevented the arm from gaining easy access to them. So we pivoted to some of the flatter bedrock off the right front wheel of the rover (in the image above), and landed on “Korskellie” for MAHLI and APXS analysis.

ChemCam was, and will be, busy off the rover’s starboard side, as well. After the drive that brought us to this location, ChemCam used its autonomous targeting capabilities to shoot a target on the right of the rover. As we were planning, we did not know exactly where that raster hit, but given the expanse of bedrock available, we assumed we already had one bedrock analysis in the bag. That allowed us to add a little variety to the nature of the targets for today. We selected “Achentoul,” another bedrock target but one that appeared to cross a color change in the bedrock. We also selected “Carragheen,” a round, roughly ping pong ball-sized resistant feature standing proud above the bedrock. The terrain has been increasingly scattered with gray rounded features presumably shed from the local bedrock, so Carragheen will give us a chance to investigate one of these things in-situ.

We were still close enough to the cliffs and buttes that form Maria Gordon notch that they got lots of imaging attention. Mastcam will acquire large mosaics of the floor of the notch that we just drove over to capture bedrock textures and structures, and the butte to the rear left of the rover to gain yet another perspective on its internal structure and evaluate its relationship to the rock above it. Early in the morning of Sol 3329, when the sun is still shining on the cliff to our west, Mastcam will image the structures at the cliff base and acquire a multispectral analysis higher up the cliff where previous mosaics have indicated color variations. Lastly, Navcam will image the cliff in a small stereo mosaic at this early morning time to improve our three-dimensional picture of the amazing structures in the cliff face.

ChemCam RMI will also get in on the imaging act, but looking farther uphill at buttes that will be increasingly hard to see along the particular path we plan to take up Mount Sharp. Both buttes are features we have imaged previously, but from farther away and from different angles. Today we will get a new perspective on them.

We will acquire atmospheric-focused measurements throughout the plan, with imaging to measure the dust load in the atmosphere at different times of sol, a Navcam cloud movie and dust devil survey, and measurement of argon in the atmosphere with APXS. RAD and REMS run systematically over both sols. DAN will acquire nearly seven hours of passive data from the subsurface in addition to one 20 minute active observation right after the we complete our ~30 m drive uphill.