MISSION UPDATES | December 7, 2023

Sols 4030-4031: On The Road Again

Written by Emma Harris, Graduate Student at Natural History Museum
This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 4028.

This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 4028. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Earth planning date: Wednesday, December 6, 2023

We arrived at our previous drill site ‘Sequoia’ in mid-October. Since then we’ve celebrated 4000 Sols on Mars, and stayed here for a few extra weeks during conjunction. But finally, Curiosity is on the move once again!

Previously, we drove ~5 m and today’s planning involved picking the most interesting rocks in the new workspace to target with Curiosity’s instruments. We begin sol 4030 with a ChemCam LIBS on target ‘Boreal Plateau,’ a contact between lighter and darker tones in the bedrock. This is followed up by a Mastcam image to document this target. The team then planned an APXS and MAHLI imaging on another bedrock target named ‘Keeler Needle.’ Curiosity will turn its mast around for a ChemCam long distance RMI of a ridge we passed previously and can now see the other side of it – this is the smaller ridge in the middle of the Navcam image above. Further Mastcam activities in the first sol also include two mosaics of the surrounding rocks as extensions to the post-drive imaging (PDI) we receive from Curiosity prior to planning.

Excitingly, later in the first sol, we have another drive. More PDI is scheduled after this drive sequence and will be returned to Earth prior to our next planning date. After the drive, we have another block of science activities including ~15 minutes of ENV activities to characterize the atmosphere including a Navcam dust devil movie and suprahorizon movie. Finally, to round off this plan, we have a ChemCam LIBS AEGIS which will automatically identify a suitable target and carry out a LIBS observation in the new workspace. This automatic target selection is really useful because it happens before the PDI is returned to Earth and ensures we get the most science we can out of the time we have.