MISSION UPDATES | February 12, 2024

Sols 4093-4094: A Feast of Images!

Written by Susanne Schwenzer, Planetary Geologist at The Open University
Black and white image of a hillside terrain on Mars.

A taster of the beauty of the scene around us. This image was taken by Right Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 4090 (2024-02-07 11:34:18 UTC). Download image ›

Earth planning date: Friday, February 9, 2024

We are found Curiosity at full energy and ready to go this morning. And go we did! We are at a very interesting location with lots of textures in the rocks in front of us, and many features to spot in the walls around us. Geologists feasting time!

And feast we did! I counted - between Mastcam, ChemCam, the Navcams, and MARDI almost 450 individual image frames! That's due to the super-interesting scenery we are currently in, with so many things to spot, blocks and textures, layers and nodules, we've got it all here. Mastcam's starter includes two doc images for LIBS on the targets "Contact Pass" and "Michael's Pinnacle," and a small documentation mosaic for earlier RMI imaging. The main menu for Mastcam consists of a range of individual targets which include the target "Elionore Lake" to look ahead into our drive direction, spotting potentially interesting structures and looking at them in higher resolution. Mastcam then images an area Trough Channel West with a mosaic and after that turns north again on the Trough Channel with another mosaic, and finally images a target called "Volcanic Lakes." That sounds like a Martian version of Spanish Tapas to me! But the heaviest course is the desert... it's a 360 mosaic of the scene that surrounds us to document many structures around the rover currently, and that accounts for 342 individual frames! If that isn't a heavy desert...!

ChemCam has three LIBS target on its menu, one on the target "Contact Pass" and the other one on "Michael's Pinnacle," and finally will decide for itself where to target with the AEGIS LIBS measurement in the final sol. But that's not all, as there are three long distance RMI images to get even more detail from the scene around us, targeting areas on the upper Gediz Vallis Ridge and the channel.

APXS has two targets, "Iridescent Lake" and "The Miller", both of which will also be imaged by MAHLI. If you are out of breath and close to food coma here, then you should know that ENV also brings environmental observations, including sky observations, and of course DAN is busy looking at the surface, and there is a MARDI image on the menu, too. After all that feasting, Curiosity will get some steps - ehm, wheel turns - in and drive off to the next stop.

That should give us a lot to look at… data and especially sunny images. And those are well needed here! While I write this, I am looking out of the window into heavy, heavy rain here in England, thinking of my Californian colleagues, who are experiencing the ‘atmospheric river' event called ‘Pineapple Express' bringing rainfall amounting to double digit inches in many regions in California. They for once get more rain that we here in England, making us all to be looking forward to the new scenery on Mars, sun guaranteed!