Astrogeology Science Center

Sol 51 update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Back in Flagstaff

27 September 2012

I haven't been following the MSL mission for the last couple days, traveling back to Flagstaff to give a talk about Mars rovers for the Flagstaff Festival of Science today at Lowell Observatory.  I've been giving talks for the Festival for about 10 years, starting with an overview of the Mars Exploration Rover mission (Spirit and Opportunity) before those rovers landed on Mars in 2004.  So I started my talk today with a quick update on the Opportunity mission, which is still going strong and exploring new rock types. Then I turned to MSL, and ran out of time even though I left out one of the cool videos I planned to show.  So there wasn't much time for questions, but enough to embarrassed by one about today's press release. I was so busy preparing for my talk that I hadn't seen the release, so I didn't know what it was about!  Too bad, because it would been nice to have included in my presentation images of the outcrop that was the subject of the press conference.  A few sols ago, we drove by an outcrop that was immediately recognized as conglomerate, a poorly-sorted sediment that is commonly formed in stream beds on Earth.  This type of rock was expected by some to be found in this part of Gale crater, and images taken from orbit showed that the landing site is near the base of a large alluvial fan, likely formed by ancient streams.