MISSION UPDATES | December 12, 2017

Sol 1902-1903: Swinging by the sandbox

Written by Michelle Minitti, Planetary Geologist at Framework
Sol 1902-1903: Swinging by the sandbox

The majority of the time on the "Vera Rubin Ridge," Curiosity focuses on the rocks that make up the ridge, measuring their chemistry and imaging their structure to try and understand the origin of this prominent feature in Gale crater. Today, however, sand was the focus of Curiosity's attention. Small depressions gather sand as the wind blows along the ridge, and the team wanted to measure the chemistry and grain size of such a Vera Rubin Ridge sand deposit to understand their similarities (or differences) to those of the Bagnold dune sands. MAHLI and APXS were deployed on two targets, "Goatfell" and "Eilean Dubh." The former is along the crest of a sand ripple, and the latter avoids ripple crests to provide the largest contrast to Goatfell. ChemCam will raster across another ripple crest at "Stonehaven," and Mastcam will acquire a multispectral observation at "Corrie" that covers the ripple crests targeted by ChemCam, MAHLI and APXS.

The Vera Rubin Ridge rocks did not go without attention despite the comprehensive sand observations. ChemCam will measure bedrock chemistry at "Arran," and the chemistry of one of the gray cobbles scattered throughout the workspace at "Trotternish." Targets "Coll" and "Yell" mark a contact between two different rock types on the ridge; Mastcam mosaics across these targets will provide detailed insight into the nature of the contact. Mastcam will also image "Hoy," a small, bumpy rock that shares similarities with the target "Moffat" imaged at our last stop. All of the plan's targets will be recorded for posterity in one of our systematic Mastcam 360 degree mosaics, including Curiosity's drive target, a stretch of bedrock ~5 m away with unique color characteristics as viewed from orbit.

Environmental observations include dust measurements at three different times of day, early morning searches for clouds looking above the rover and across the horizon, DAN passive and active measurements spaced throughout the plan, and regular REMS and RAD measurements.