MISSION UPDATES | August 31, 2022

Sols 3580-3581: An Unexpected Stop

Written by Abigail Fraeman, Planetary Geologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Image of rocks and sand taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3579.

This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3579. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

We kicked off Curiosity operations this morning with the news that our previous drive did not complete as planned. Some of the sand in the area caused the rover to veer ever-so-slightly off course, which then caused the right side of the vehicle to just clip the edge of a large rock. When the onboard safety check sensed the wheels were climbing a feature larger than anticipated, Curiosity stopped mid-drive to await further instructions. Fortunately, the human operators back on Earth could see there was nothing particularly dangerous about this terrain, so in today's plan, we asked Curiosity to continue towards an area in Marker Band valley that has a very different texture in orbital images.

As a result of the right middle wheel being perched on a rock (see image above), we did not want to risk shifting the rover's center of mass by unstowing the arm today. As a result, we filled the plan with lots of remote sensing observations. We'll take a ChemCam LIBS observation of a nodule we named "Rio Negro," as well as Mastcam mosaic of cool rocks around the rover that we named "Las Lajitas," "La Esmeralda," and "Cumana." We'll also collect a long distance ChemCam RMI mosaic of another area of the marker band, and several observations to monitor the environment around us.