USGS Astrogeology Science Center News http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news News about current and upcoming space missions, USGS gelogic products and historical exhibits en-us <![CDATA[Name Approved for Crater on the Moon: Pierazzo]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Pierazzo for a crater on the Moon. For more information, see the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Sol 999: Last MAHLI images before conjunction]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700

by Ken Herkenhoff

Today is the last day we can plan MAHLI activities before the operational stand-down for solar conjunction, to ensure that we have time to confirm that MAHLI's dust cover is safely closed.  So we worked to include as many MAHLI images as possible in the Sol 999 plan, making for a rather hectic day for me as MAHLI uplink lead.  The plan includes a full set of MAHLI images of a potential DRT target called "Big Arm."  The target dubbed "Wallace" was selected for brushing by the DRT, followed by a full set of MAHLI images of the brushed spot.  The APXS will then be placed on Wallace for overnight integration.  Mastcam multispectral observations of the brushed Ronan target and some rocks broken by one of the wheels (dubbed "Seeley") are also planned--we want to image them before any dust is deposited on those clean surfaces.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Sol 998: Contact Science at Marias Pass]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Mastcam image of Ronan Sol 995

By Lauren Edgar

A short bump on Sol 997 put Curiosity in a great position to investigate a few different rock units in Marias Pass, using the instruments on the rover’s arm.  The 2.5 m drive brings our total odometry to 10,599 m.  With the upcoming solar conjunction (Mars will be on the opposite side of the sun from the Earth, so we can’t communicate with the rover for most of the month of June), Curiosity is now parked for the next few weeks.   But we are parked in front of a beautiful outcrop that shows the contact between the underlying Pahrump unit and the overlying Stimson unit.

The goal of today’s plan is to characterize the Stimson unit.  First, Curiosity will acquire ChemCam and Mastcam on part of the Stimson unit called “Ronan” (the large block in the top part of this Mastcam image) as well as a coarse-grained block named “Big_Arm.”  Then we’ll acquire several MAHLI images on “Ronan.”  Next, Curiosity will brush “Ronan” to remove the dust, and will then take MAHLI images of the brushed area to get a better look at the grain size and textures.  And finally, we’ll place APXS on the target to investigate the bulk chemistry of “Ronan.”  Tomorrow’s plan will likely include similar observations on the Pahrump unit.

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Names Approved for Two Montes on Mars]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Coprates Montes and Nectaris Montes. For more information, see the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Sol 997: Preparing for contact science]]> Tue, 26 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 995 Pahrump Stimson contact

By Lauren Edgar

Curiosity spent the weekend characterizing the terrain and bedrock exposed in Marias Pass.  Curiosity drove 33 m further into Marias Pass, bringing our total odometry to 10,596 m.   The drive set us up perfectly to investigate the contact between two different types of bedrock – the underlying Pahrump unit and the overlying Stimson unit.

Today’s plan is focused on characterizing the contact in this new location, and then bumping even closer to the outcrop to prepare for contact science later this week.  Now that ChemCam is back in action with its autonomous focusing capability, the plan includes two ChemCam rasters on the targets “Mission” and “Missoula” to assess the chemistry on either side of the contact.  The plan also includes some Mastcam mosaics to document the sedimentary structures, and a Navcam observation to search for dust devils.  Then Curiosity will bump closer to the outcrop, and will acquire images for future targeting.  Overnight, Curiosity will acquire Mastcam images of Phobos to study aerosols in the atmosphere of Mars.

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Sols 993-996: A long weekend at Marias Pass]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 992 Stimson-Pahrump contact

By Lauren Edgar 

On Sol 992 Curiosity took a short drive into Marias Pass to get a better look at the terrain ahead.  The 6 m drive on Sol 992 brought our total odometry to 10,562 m.  It also put Curiosity in a great position for targeted science over the long holiday weekend.

The 4 sol plan includes some large Mastcam mosaics to characterize the terrain and the contact between the Stimson and Pahrump units.  The plan also includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations on the targets “Hoodoo,” “Pinehaven,” “Red Sleep,” and “Red Horn” to assess the composition of the bright outcrop and veins.  On Sol 995, Curiosity will bump closer to the outcrop, to prepare for possible contact science next week.  Curiosity will also acquire several Mastcam observations of Deimos and stars to assess the nighttime atmospheric opacity.  Sol 996 will be a “REMS-a-palooza” devoted entirely to extended environmental monitoring. 

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Sol 992: Marias Pass]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 991 Marias Pass

By Lauren Edgar

Curiosity conquered the hill on Sol 991, and we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Marias Pass.  The 22 m drive on Sol 991 brings our total odometry to 10,556 m.

In today’s plan, Curiosity will acquire ChemCam and Mastcam observations on the targets “Elk” and “Bull” to characterize the bright bedrock and a nearby boulder.  We’ll also take several Mastcam mosaics to document the local stratigraphy.  After a short drive we’ll acquire additional Mastcam images to capture the contact between the Stimson and Pahrump units.  The plan also includes standard post-drive imaging, as well as DAN and REMS activities.

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Sol 991: Taking the high road]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 990 drive direction

By Lauren Edgar

After assessing a few different drive paths to deal with the challenging terrain, the team decided to drive uphill to avoid crossing the ripples near Jocko Butte.  On Sol 990, Curiosity drove 52 m back towards Mt. Shields, which puts our total odometry at 10,533 m.  

The goal of today’s plan is to climb uphill towards an interesting geologic contact.  It’s the same contact that we would have seen in Logan Pass, but the path through “Marias Pass” looks a little bit shorter.  Today’s plan also includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the target “Petty,” and Mastcam documentation of “Apikuni Mountain” and Mt. Shields to characterize the local geology.  After the drive we’ll acquire some standard imaging to help with future targeting.

Hopefully the climb will give Curiosity a good workout, and we’ll get to see some exciting features when we get there! 

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Sol 990: ChemCam Autofocus Software]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700

by Ken Herkenhoff

Testing of the new ChemCam automatic focusing software continues to go well--the instrument is returning well-focused data of the quality we got used to early in the mission.  The MAHLI test data acquired on Sol 989 are also looking good; here's an image of the penny in the MAHLI calibration target on the rover.  Having completed the most urgent arm activities needed before conjunction, MSL is ready to drive again.  The Sol 990 plan begins with a Navcam search for dust devils, ChemCam and Mastcam observations of "Pinedale," and a Right Mastcam image of the APXS target "Spokane."  Then the rover will drive west in search of a route up the hill toward the southwest and acquire the post-drive data needed to plan the next drive and targeted science observations. 

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Sol 987-989: Back at Jocko Butte]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

The backwards drive on sol 986 was successful, and over the weekend, Curiosity drove back toward “Jocko Butte”. Before the drive on sol 987, ChemCam had a 5x1 observation of the target “Mill”, accompanied by a Mastcam image. Mastcam also took a small 2x2 mosaic of our tracks.

The drive back toward Jocko Butte was about 43 m, bringing our total odometry to 10,697 m. After the drive, Navcam and Mastcam took images to allow for targeted science and contact science, and Navcam also had an atmospheric observation. On sol 988, we had several “untargeted” observations, including some Mastcam measurements of the amount of dust in the atmosphere, a Mastcam “clast survey” observation, and a MAHLI image of the ground at our new location.

In today’s plan for sol 989, there is a ChemCam 3x3 observation on the target “Spokane”, and an accompanying APXS observation. (And can I just say how nice it is to be able to rapidly analyze nine spots on a target with ChemCam again?) Sol 989 also has a number of arm settling tests with MAHLI that we want to get done before the upcoming conjunction (several weeks when the sun is between the Earth and Mars, cutting off communications). These tests help us to see how long it takes for vibrations in the rover’s arm to disappear enough to allow good MAHLI images. Finally, APXS will be placed back on Spokane for an overnight measurement.

After sol 989, we will be driving again, though where exactly we will go is still being discussed. We want to get to the stratigraphic contact at the base of “Mt. Stimson”, but it is proving to be difficult to reach so we are also considering alternatives. 

-Ryan is a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the ChemCam team on MSL.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Sol 986: Finding a Path]]> Fri, 15 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

We’ve been having trouble with the path we originally wanted to take through the sand toward the interesting geology at “Mt. Stimson”, so in today’s plan we are going to take a careful look around to identify better routes. Mastcam has a 13x3 mosaic in the direction we want to go, as well as a 5x3 mosaic of Mt. Stimson and a 2x2 mosaic to fill a gap in a previous mosaic.

While Mastcam tries to spot a path through the sand, ChemCam is busy testing out its new focusing software, which seems to be working well. ChemCam has an autofocus observation of a target called “Yellowjacket”, and a z-stack observation of the same target to compare the results.

After that, we have a short backwards drive to get us from our current highly tilted location to more level ground. After the drive, Navcam will provide a 360 degree view of our new location, and Mastcam will do a “clast survey” to document the sand and pebbles at our new location.

Finally, Mastcam has some night-time imaging of another Phobos eclipse.

-Ryan is a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the ChemCam team on MSL.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Sol 985: High Tilt]]> Thu, 14 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700

by Ken Herkenhoff

Once again, excessive wheel slippage prevented MSL from driving as far as planned, so the tactical team decided to take a break from driving to allow various options to be studied in more detail.  The rover is tilted 21 degrees, the highest tilt of the mission so far, on the flank of a small ridge.  The vehicle is high enough on the ridge that the terrain to the southwest is visible in Sol 984 Navcam images, allowing more complete evaluation of a traverse in that direction. 

The Sol 985 plan includes ChemCam observations of a nearby rock called "Una" to test the newly-installed ChemCam autofocus software.  Of course we are hoping this test goes well and that ChemCam will return to more normal operations soon.  Mastcam will also observe Una, as well as the ripples and small rocks near the rover, and outcrops toward the south.  The usual atmospheric monitoring observations round out the plan.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Sol 984: Slippery sand]]> Wed, 13 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

by Ken Herkenhoff

The MSL tactical team took a day off yesterday to allow Earth and Mars time to synch up; planning is no longer restricted and we will be working every day the rest of this week (including Saturday).  Despite efforts to avoid sandy areas, the Sol 983 drive stopped short when the rover detected that it was slipping too much.  So after taking some Mastcam images of the areas that are being considered for upcoming contact science, the rover will back up and drive around the sand and up onto a low ridge to the southwest of our current location.  The slopes on the flank of the ridge are steeper than those that the rover has traversed before, but it will probably be easier to climb them than to drive across the sandy ripples.  Overnight, CheMin will perform an instrument calibration activity.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Sol 983: More sand traps]]> Mon, 11 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

by Ken Herkenhoff

The Sol 981 drive got the rover around the troublesome ripples and to the desired location, which gave us a good view of the terrain ahead.  Unfortunately, the images taken from the new location show more sandy ripples between the rover and the sharp transition between bright and dark rocks that we would would like to examine close up.  So the plan for Sol 983 is to go around the ripples to the right and search for a safe path ahead.  But first, ChemCam will test its new focusing software, using the RMI to find the best focus position for LIBS analyses of the onboard calibration targets.  The biggest challenge for me as SOWG Chair today was prioritizing data for downlink, as the data volume expected via MRO is much less than usual.  We will probably receive the images most urgently needed to plan the next drive, but not the results of the ChemCam software tests.  This will delay the return of ChemCam to "normal" operations.  But the near-term focus will likely be on driving, so there will be few opportunities for ChemCam observations anyway. 

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Agenda for the 2nd Planetary Data Workshop]]> Mon, 11 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700 The agenda and abstracts for the 2nd Planetary Data Workshop have been posted at LPI. The last day for early registration is this WEDNESDAY, May 13 2015. http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/planetdata2015/

On the heals of the excellent ESA GIS Workshop, the 2nd Data Workshop is quickly shaping up to be another great meeting to discuss upcoming data and tools and to participate in many hands-on seesions from ISIS processing, GIS applications, an introduction to programming with Python and more.

Contact Lisa Gaddis or Trent Hare for any further information ( lgaddis@usgs.gov or thare@usgs.gov )

 

 

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