MISSION UPDATES | July 24, 2023

Sols 3895-3897: Navigating Through the Crater Cluster

Written by Lauren Edgar, Planetary Geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center
This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3894.

This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3894 (July 21, 2023). Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Earth planning date: Friday, July 21, 2023

Curiosity is working her way through the “Jau” crater cluster, with the goal of trying to understand how all of these small craters formed and have since been eroded. To do that, the team is hoping to assess the target rocks, any evidence for the impactor, and the morphology of the craters. While the craters are very easy to see in orbital images, the view from the ground is a bit harder to assess, as seen in the above Navcam image. The image shows some broken up blocks of bedrock in the foreground, and small depressions and ridges in the distance. Through a detailed imaging campaign and contact science, the team hopes to gain more insight into the origin of these features, before getting back on the road to continue climbing up Mount Sharp.

Today’s 3-sol plan focused on the crater cluster science with plenty of imaging and contact science. On the first sol, Curiosity will investigate the bedrock target “La Trinite” with DRT, MAHLI, and APXS, and a second target “Rio Javari” with MAHLI and APXS to better understand the target rock properties. The team also planned two large Mastcam stereo mosaics to investigate the depth-to-diameter ratios and erosional state of several craters, and three ChemCam LIBS targets to assess variations in texture and chemistry of the local bedrock. Mastcam will also collect a multispectral observation of the DRT target, along with imaging to assess the movement of fines on the rover deck, and a small mosaic to investigate nearby troughs in the regolith. On the second sol the rover will acquire a long distance ChemCam RMI mosaic looking back towards Peace Vallis – it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come! The plan also includes environmental monitoring activities to look for clouds and dust devils and monitor dust in the atmosphere. Curiosity will drive on the third sol, which will hopefully bring us closer to one of the larger craters in this cluster for even more crater science next week!