Sol 87 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Self Portrait2 November 2012
The MAHLI "self portrait" of the rover that we planned on Sol 84 came out beautifully. Several other updates on the MSL mission are related to the news conference this morning, which included discussion of SAM atmospheric measurements. The SAM data indicate that much of Mars' atmosphere has escaped, as suspected based on previous studies. The rate of atmospheric escape is greater on Mars than on Earth because of the difference in gravity--if you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, you would weigh only 38 pounds on Mars. This difference makes it easier for gas molecules to fly away from Mars, and for the effects of these losses to be measured.
I served as SOWG chair today, and struggled to catch up with what had happened in the 2 days I took off since my last tactical shift. Fortunately, there were several people at JPL who had been working operations while I was away, and they helped me get up to speed quickly. The reports saved each sol on the team web site were also helpful, as usual, and will become even more important as we transition to remote operations next week.