MISSION UPDATES | March 10, 2023

Sols 3766-3768: Taking Turns With Tapo Caparo

Written by Lucy Thompson, Planetary Geologist at University of New Brunswick
Rear Hazcam image showing an example of the finely laminated bedrock, typical of this area.

Rear Hazcam image showing an example of the finely laminated bedrock, typical of this area. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Curiosity has spent the last week or so balancing power constraints to enable remote science and environmental observations, along with the analyses of the “Tapo Caparo” Marker band drilled sample with the rover’s internal CheMin and SAM instruments to determine mineralogy and composition. While drill sample is held within the drill bit assembly, we are unable to use the other arm instruments (MAHLI and APXS), but once we have delivered enough sample to CheMin and SAM, we dump any remaining sample, and are then able to use APXS and MAHLI. So, in this plan, it is the turn of MAHLI and APXS to investigate the powdered sample surrounding the Tapo Caparo drill hole. MAHLI will document the close-up textures and any colour variation, and APXS will determine the composition. The APXS chemistry of the drill fines will be compared to the analyses obtained of the brushed bedrock prior to drilling to look for heterogeneities and used to refine interpretations of the CheMin and SAM data. As the APXS payload downlink and uplink lead during planning today, I helped to select the best location to place APXS on the drill fines and ensured that the timing and sequences were correct. The APXS team are excited to receive the data from this measurement, as the Marker band has proven to have interesting chemistry and mineralogy! Before we dump the remaining Tapo Caparo drill fines, we will deliver four more samples to SAM so they can perform an EGA-GCMS analysis to look for organic molecules.

Aside from the continued characterization of the Tapo Caparo drill, we also managed to find enough power and time to plan a number of remote science observations. These included expanding previously acquired Mastcam mosaics of the area around the Tapo Caparo drill site, and of an area ahead of the rover, “Chenapau” valley. Mastcam will also document the three ChemCam LIBS targets, “Manoa Pium,” “Sima Humboldt” and “Catatumba.” Manoa Pium is a bedrock target, Catatumba is a spherical nodule or pebble, and Sima Humboldt is a float block. The wheel scuff and associated freshly fractured bedrock targets “Paricarana,” “Pirapitinga,” and “Taracua” will also be imaged with Mastcam. ChemCam will also utilize their RMI capabilities to image the beautiful laminations in the nearby “Itaquera” bedrock target.

Not to be left out, the environmental science team also planned a full set of activities to continue monitoring the atmosphere. These include Mastcam basic tau (surveys dust in the atmosphere), crater rim extension and sky survey observations, as well as a Navcam large dust devil survey, zenith and suprahorizon movies. This very busy plan is rounded out with standard REMS, DAN and RAD activities.

Phew! It amazes me how much we are still able to accomplish with our ageing rover!