MISSION UPDATES | April 8, 2020

Sols 2729-2730: Keeping It Clean

Written by Scott Guzewich, Atmospheric Scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Curiosity’s arm over the drill tailings from the Edinburgh drill hole

This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2727. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›​

Many of us on Earth are being especially diligent lately about washing our hands for at least 20 seconds after touching a new surface. On Mars, Curiosity is used to doing something a little bit similar, but for a very different reason: to prevent cross-contamination between samples taken at different locations. Of course, the lack of water and soap prevents the rover from “washing,” but we still have to make sure the rover’s instruments stay as clean as possible after touching a new surface. On Monday’s plan, we placed the rover’s arm over the drill tailings from our Edinburgh drill hole to study them with APXS and MAHLI (see image above). In today’s plan, we’ll retract the arm from that position and stow it so we can drive away. During that process, we swing the turret back-and-forth to shake off and remove any bits of sand or dust that may have been clinging to APXS so when we next use it, APXS only measures materials at the new location and nothing that came with us from Edinburgh.

After stowing the arm today, ChemCam will target the inside wall of the drill hole as well as take a long-distance mosaic of Gediz Vallis and the Greenheugh Pediment. Then we’ll conduct a short drive to a nearby patch of soil that we hope to study over the weekend. On the second sol of the plan, we’ll have a ChemCam AEGIS activity (where ChemCam picks its own targets!), search for dust devils, and monitor the dust levels in the atmosphere. Tomorrow is the equinox on Mars and spring begins for the southern hemisphere. This is also when the dust storm season (generally the second half of the martian year) begins. Last Mars year (2018), we had a global dust storm and will be carefully watching to see if another develops this year!