MISSION UPDATES | March 23, 2017

Sol 1646: Traction control driving

Written by Ken Herkenhoff, Planetary Geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center

MSL drove a little over 20 meters on Sol 1645, toward the big sand dune to the east that is the subject of a science campaign that will hopefully start next week. Another drive toward the east is planned for Sol 1646, with post-drive imaging to set up for contact science. The drive will include the first use on Mars of traction control software that's been tested and fine-tuned in JPL's Mars Yard since last April. This new software allows the rover to drive "softer," meaning that when the rover detects that a wheel is driving over a rock, it slows the other five wheels to avoid pushing the wheel into the rock while the wheel climbs over the rock. Curiosity's first use of traction control has been planned for months to begin about now and is intended to validate the new software for optional use in future drives.

Before the Sol 1646 drive, ChemCam will observe targets "Bald Rock Ledge" and "Porcupine Dry Ledge" on one of the layered outcrops to the right of the rover. Then Right Mastcam will acquire mosaics of both of the layered outcrops shown in the picture above. After the drive, Navcam will again search for dust devils and ChemCam will observe a target selected by AEGIS. Finally, Navcam will search for clouds and SAM will perform an engineering baseline test.

by Ken Herkenhoff
Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.