Astrogeology Science Center

Sol 66 update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Decontamination Time

12 October 2012

The Sol 66 plan includes the second scooping activity on the same sandy ripple, again intended to be used to flush out the CHIMRA system, removing any remaining terrestrial contamination. This won't take the entire sol, and there were a couple blocks of time available for science observations. So it was a busy day (actually night, with my shift starting at 5 PM PDT) for the science team, preparing and prioritizing potential observations. I was focused on ChemCam again as PEL, and our top priority was to run our decontamination heaters for 2 hours. We have been doing this approximately weekly to ensure that gases released within the rover body when it was warm (during cruise to Mars) have not condensed on ChemCam's detectors. Ideally, LIBS (laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy) measurements of our titanium calibration target should be acquired soon before and after the decontamination heating, to see whether instrument performance has changed. The problem with doing this is that just cooling down and turning on the instrument takes about 40 minutes, so fitting it in with other science observations isn't easy. But the team recognized the importance of this instrument maintenance and it made it into the plan along with Mastcam, MAHLI, DAN, RAD, and REMS observations. Hopefully it will all go well and we will be able to squeeze in another (post-decontamination) ChemCam observation of the titanium target in the Sol 67 plan.