MISSION UPDATES | September 7, 2023

Sols 3941-3942: Follow the Red Bumpy Road

Written by Sharon Wilson Purdy, Planetary Geologist at Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
This image was taken by Right Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3940.

This image was taken by Right Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3940. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Earth planning date: Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Today I served on the rover science operations team as the Geology theme group Keeper of the Plan, otherwise known as the “GKOP.” The GKOP operates the software that is specifically designed to help the science team build a plan of geology-focused observations that fit within the pre-determined duration of the science blocks on each sol.

The rover is currently driving across bumpy terrain consisting of rounded bedrock sticking up between dark sand and drift as she drives south, and slightly uphill, along the Mt. Sharp Ascent Route. Due to the rugged ground, the rover sometimes ends her drive with a wheel or two perched on a rock. When that happens, as it did today, we are unable to safely unstow the arm to do contact science. We pivoted and planned a ChemCam LIBS observation of target “Eleusis” to characterize the composition of smooth bedrock in our workspace. A nearby exposure of bedrock was documented by a Mastcam stereo mosaic of the “Kechries” target. We also took a Mastcam stereo image of a nearby trough to investigate the interaction between the sand and bedrock. Off in the distance, we planned a Mastcam multispectral image and a long distance ChemCam RMI image of “Kukenan” to further characterize and document the varying textures and layers within the butte.

In addition to a 23 meter (~75 feet) drive in this 2-sol plan, Curiosity will collect environmental data including surveys to monitor dust devil activity, a movie to monitor cloud movement, and a solar tau to measure the optical depth of the atmosphere and to constrain aerosol scattering properties. The science team ended the day with a look-ahead to Curiosity’s weekend plan – with lots of images to take and data to collect it’s never a dull moment for this rover on Earth or on Mars!