Astrogeology Science Center

Sol 229 Update On Curiosity From USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Superior Conjunction

1 April 2013

I'm not scheduled in any tactical operations roles this week, but have been calling into planning meetings for both MSL (Curiosity) and MER (Opportunity). The rovers and other Mars spacecraft are preparing for the upcoming "superior conjunction" of Mars, when the planet will pass behind the Sun as seen from Earth. For a couple weeks around conjunction, it is difficult (or impossible) to communicate with the spacecraft because radio waves are disrupted by plasma in the Sun's atmosphere. So command sequences have been prepared to get the spacecraft through this period safely, without much activity. This week is our last chance to plan additional observations before the conjunction plan kicks in, so we are finishing up the highest-priority science activities on both rovers. On MSL, these include APXS, Mastcam and ChemCam measurements of the first drill sample after it was dumped out of CHIMRA. For MER, we have selected in interested rock target to place the APXS, in order to acquire lots of good data during conjunction.