MISSION UPDATES | January 20, 2022

Sols 3362-3363: Sedimentologist's Delight

Written by Lauren Edgar, Planetary Geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center
This image was taken by Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3361.

This image was taken by Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3361. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL. Download image ›

After a few sols of challenges that prevented us from getting close-up MAHLI imaging of this dark outcrop in front of us, today we were finally able to plan the contact science that we were hoping for. Yesterday there was a small rock under the right rear rover wheel, so we had to kick that rock to the curb to get into a stable position for using the rover arm. This morning’s downlink data confirmed that we had cleared the rock and we are good to go with a fantastic set of contact science activities (as a sedimentologist I am drooling over some of these beautiful structures throughout this area).

Today’s two-sol plan is focused on contact science on the first sol and a drive on the second sol. The plan starts with several Mastcam mosaics to document sedimentary structures and their spatial relationships, as well as the processes responsible for carving this landscape. Then we’ll get a ChemCam LIBS observation on “Kako” to investigate the chemistry of nearby nodular bedrock, followed by a long-distance RMI mosaic to investigate the stratigraphy exposed in the “Mirador” butte. After that, we’ll put the arm to work. We’ll acquire a MAHLI “dogs eye” mosaic of the target “Caroni” in which the camera will get an edge-on perspective of the exposed laminae, and a set of images that coincide with the APXS targets “Coati” and “Morok.” All of these contact science targets are intended to understand the grain size, sedimentary structures, and composition of the dark outcrop in front of us. Previously we acquired some remote sensing observations of this outcrop (including the beautiful laminae seen in the above ChemCam RMI image), but we’re excited to get this detailed information from MAHLI and APXS. After the evening APXS integrations, the rover will go to sleep, and wake up the next morning for more science. The ENV theme group planned a suite of observations to characterize atmospheric dust and search for dust devils. Then Curiosity will drive back along this dark outcrop to another interesting location to setup for more contact science in the weekend plan. Looking forward to a great set of data from this location!