MISSION UPDATES | February 6, 2024

Sols 4089-4090: Ripple Me This…

Written by Amelie Roberts, Graduate Student at Imperial College London
This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 4088.

This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 4088. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Earth planning date: Monday, February 05, 2024

Curiosity had a successful imaging-based weekend and us geologists were excited to look at the new mosaics of Gediz Vallis Ridge and surrounding buttes when they downlinked to Earth. Curiosity also completed a ~13m drive – an achievement considering the terrain – and approached its new workspace with a closer view of Gediz Vallis Ridge and a large wind-blown ridge which is either a Transverse Aeolian Ridge (TAR), a wind-formed mound of sand smaller than a dune, or maybe a megaripple.

As Keeper of the Plan for the Geology theme group, I was busy making sure all the geology-related requests from the instrument teams were recorded accurately into the plan to be transmitted to the rover. The targeted part of the plan (the first sol) was very sand-focused. While widespread on Mars, TARs and megaripples are much rarer on Earth, so we seize any opportunity to study these features up-close and in situ. Most of the opportunistic science time of the rover was planned to be spent imaging the sand target, named “Knapsack Pass”, with an extensive 32 frame Mastcam mosaic and a ChemCam passive raster to improve our understandings of its chemistry and formation. We also continued our investigation of the layered sulfates. We planned contact science, APXS and MAHLI, to target sulfate bedrock, “Willow Springs”, a ChemCam LIBS to target flakey sulfate bedrock, “Triple Falls”, and planned Mastcam coverage of a small bowl-shaped depression in the sulfates, “Elinore Lake”. Even after all of these activities, there was still enough time to work towards our other science goal, the imaging campaign of Gediz Vallis ridge, through capturing part of the ridge with both ChemCam and Mastcam coverage.

After a short drive, our untargeted part of the plan on the second sol will be focused on some environmental science-theme group activities. At the moment, on Mars, we’re in dust storm season so the environmental scientists are keeping their eyes out on all things dust. This means that planning is focused on dust devil movies and surveys. We finished off the plan with one of ChemCam’s automated AEGIS (Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science) activities.