MISSION UPDATES | February 5, 2021

Sols 3024-3025: Roving Through the Rubble

Written by Melissa Rice, Planetary Geologist at Western Washington University
A black and white view of Mars

This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3022 (2021-02-05 06:20:27 UTC). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Curiosity has just crossed the contact between two rock types: the fractured intermediate unit and the rubbly sub-unit. This weekend, Curiosity’s driving will be entirely within the rubbly material. It will be slow going because the rover has to navigate carefully around the jumble of pointy rocks – this stuff is called “rubbly” for a reason!

We don’t know exactly what is causing the rubbly character of the rocks here, and why they have weathered so differently from the adjacent, less-broken-up outcrop. As we drive through it, we plan to take frequent measurements of the chemistry and textures to better understand the unit’s origins. Today, the team selected two rubbly blocks to study with APXS and MAHLI: targets “Coutures” and “Biron.” ChemCam will also acquire a mosaic of RMI images over the rock “Sarrazac,” and Mastcam will document some of the blocks nearby with vertical faces.

Looking forward, Curiosity is heading to the sulfate unit, in the direction of the bright, smooth rocks seen towards the top of the Navcam image above. This weekend, Mastcam will be taking a panorama and multispectral images that cover the base of this sulfate unit and the cliff face seen on the left. These images will help the science team decide exactly where to direct Curiosity as the rover rambles through this rocky rubble.