MISSION UPDATES | September 29, 2023

Sols 3964-3965: "Double DRT for a Soliday"

Written by Natalie Moore, Mission Operations Specialist at Malin Space Science Systems
MAHLI image of “Blackcap Mountain” from about 27cm away on Sol 3962

MAHLI image of "Blackcap Mountain" from ~27cm away on Sol 3962. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Download image ›

Earth planning date: Friday, September 29, 2023

Welcome to another weekend in Gale crater, Mars! As Abigail Knight described in Wednesday’s blog, we elected not to drive last plan while we waited for the workspace imaging from Navcam and Mastcam to arrive on Earth. All went as expected and we received the necessary imaging to assess the terrain well enough for using our DRT on the beautiful light-toned slab of rock in front of us. With that image open, I just want to point out our remote and contact science targets we analyzed from Wednesday: The sol 3962 ChemCam LIBS target, Pants Pass, was in the mid-right region of the slab with the sedimentary layers. Here you can see the LIBS spots on the Pants Pass layers from the ChemCam RMI. The contact science targets, Blackcap Mountain and Burnt Mountain, are the dark-toned raised layers on the lower-middle and upper-middle of the slab respectively (you can’t miss em!).

It’s critical to characterize the bedrock between the light-toned blocks and the dark-toned blocks up ahead, so for today’s plan we decided on two (!) DRT targets to double up the contact science while we’re in a stable position to unstow the arm. The first DRT target, “Cloudripper,” is located on a super flat spot to the left of Blackcap Mountain. The Second DRT target, “White Pass,” is located on another flat spot below Burnt Mountain and above Pants Pass. MAHLI will go down to ~3cm distance from each of those targets for a full suite of images, which means we can get ~0.017 mm/pixel resolution - the grain size of siltstone!

For remote science, ChemCam is shooting their LIBS on Wednesday’s Burnt Mountain contact science target and a nearby block named “Sky Pilot” (vertically-layered block in the lower-center of this Navcam image). We're staying at this location for further bedrock analysis on Monday’s plan, so Mastcam will document the LIBS targets from today but defer any mosaics until Monday.

In other news, we have a soliday this weekend (I think I explained this term pretty well in one of my blogs last year) so next week we’ll be able to plan in “unrestricted” sols, which are days where the Earth and Mars time zones align. During unrestricted planning periods, we get information about how the activities we planned on one Earth day actually executed on Mars in time for the start of planning the next Earth day. This will be our first unrestricted planning cycle without sufficient budget for Tuesday ops, so we’ll still need to plan two sols at a time on Monday. However, we can save the drive for sol two and keep our APXS evening integrations on the first sol. Hope you have a great soliday weekend!