MISSION UPDATES | June 30, 2022

Sols 3519-3524: Eyeing Kukenán

Written by Abigail Fraeman, Planetary Geologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3515 (2022-06-26 19:35:29 UTC).

This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3515. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Curiosity is continuing to proceed through our pre-planned checklist of activities that we’ve made for drill campaigns. The team is currently waiting for the downlink that contains data from CheMin’s first analysis of the Avanavero drilled sample, and we will use these data to help us decide whether to analyze the sample with SAM as well. While we wait today, we planned a whopping six sols worth of activity that will cover the upcoming July 4th US holiday. The main activities in the plan included a second evening of analysis of Avanavero with CheMin, and an activity to prepare the SAM instrument to accept a sample so that we can be ready to say “Go for sample analysis!” on Tuesday after we see the CheMin results.

We planned lots of remote sensing activities around the tasks of our SAM and CheMin onboard laboratories. We will be collecting several high resolution Mastcam mosaics of the area and environmental sensing data. We’ll also collect ChemCam LIBS observations of rock targets named “Tocobirem” and “Uaiparu,” a soil target named “Simibi,” and the drill hole itself. On top of that, ChemCam will also acquire two long distance RMI mosaics, one over Gediz Vallis ridge, and one over a far distant hill (shown in the center of the above Navcam) we decided to name “Kukenán.” Kukenán’s Earth namesake is a tepui, or distinctive isolated table-top mountain, found in South America. The Martian Kukenán is also somewhat flat topped and an impressive expression in Mt. Sharp’s topography. While it looks like it’s about the same size as the hills that bound it in the above Navcam image (“Deepdale” on the left and the edge of “Bolivar” on the right), this effect is just due to forced perspective. In reality, Kukenán is nearly five times farther away and over three times as tall as Deepdale! Curiosity’s strategic traverse path takes the rover right past Kukenán in about a kilometer or so, so this feature will become a familiar landmark rising in our windshield for months to come.