MISSION UPDATES | December 23, 2022

Sols 3699-3702: A Scuff for the New Year

Written by Abigail Fraeman, Planetary Geologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
This image shows Curiosity's nameplate above the rocky Martian terrain and was taken by Left Navigation Camera on Curiosity on Sol 3690.

This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3690. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Curiosity has executed two out of the ten sols we planned on Wednesday to cover the rover’s activities through the holidays, so the three sols we planned today (sols 3699-3671) won’t actually execute on Mars for several days. The activities we included in the remaining eight sols of Wednesday’s ten-sol plan don’t involve any driving or arm activities, so we picked up today’s planning knowing this (very far future plan) would start with Curiosity looking at the same workspace and ready for science in the new year.

We were thrilled this morning to discover the early holiday present we hoped Curiosity would “unwrap” using a scuff was opened for us, and we had abundant crushed white rocks available in our workspace to observe with our contact science instruments. We selected three targets for MAHLI and APXS observations that included two spots with different amounts of the white material named “Mapuera” and “Mapuera offset” and a dark sand target named “Corume” for comparison. ChemCam is getting in on the action too, measuring the composition of targets named “Urucuri” and “Orinduque” with LIBS, and a passive spectral observation of “Sequereu.” Mastcam rounds out the geology activities, with stereo and multispectral images of the very interesting ground all around the rover at this location. While we’re here, we’ll also collect an active DAN measurement to measure hydrogen (a proxy for water) below the surface. We’ll then drive off, back to our strategic route that climbs Mt. Sharp, and we will collect additional environmental monitoring observations after the drive.

As we roll into a new year here on Earth, it’s nice to reflect on all Curiosity has accomplished over the last 12 months. This time last year we were eagerly about to start our ascent of the Greenheugh Pediment, blissfully unaware of the rough terrain up there that would force us to re-route. Even with this change of plans, we’ve covered so much terrain since then – the spectacular views in “Paraitepuy Pass” and first successful drill into the sulfate unit were highlights of the year for me. I wonder what we’ll be able to say about 2023 at this time next year?