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[Sols 1332-1333: Drilling at Okoruso]]> Wed, 04 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1330 MAHLI DRT Okoruso

Contact science activities on Sol 1330 went well, and we’re ready to drill at “Okoruso.”  As seen in the above MAHLI image, this target looks like pretty typical Stimson bedrock, so it will be helpful to compare to the altered rock that we sampled at Lubango.

Today’s two-sol plan is focused on drilling and MAHLI imaging on the first sol, with a lot of targeted remote sensing on the second sol.  Activities on the second sol include a Mastcam multispectral observation of the drill hole, a large Mastcam mosaic to document the local geology, ChemCam observations of “Kobos” and “Strathmore” to investigate altered and unaltered rocks, and a long distance ChemCam RMI mosaic as part of a change detection experiment.  We’ll also acquire a Mastcam tau, ChemCam passive sky, and Navcam movie to monitor the atmosphere.

I’m impressed by how efficient we’ve become at drilling (we just wrapped up the last drill hole a couple of sols ago).  Sometimes I need to pause and remind myself how unique and exciting this is.  On what seems like just a typical Wednesday, we’re drilling a hole on another planet!  I’m grateful for the skilled operations team that makes this seem so easy, and I’m looking forward to seeing results from the newest drill hole on Mars.

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the 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 1330-1331: Characterizing the next drill site]]> Mon, 02 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1327 Mastcam Lubango

Sol 1329 Navcam Ovitoto

Over the weekend, Curiosity completed the drilling investigation at Lubango, and we drove ~13 m to the “Ovitoto” area (note that this area is only ~4 m away from Cubango as the crow flies, but it took some maneuvering to get there).  This area is composed of typical unaltered Stimson bedrock, which we’ll use to compare to the altered bedrock at Lubango. 

I was on duty as GSTL today, and we put together a full plan of contact science to characterize the next potential drill site.  The two-sol plan starts with a ChemCam observation of “Okoruso,” followed by MAHLI of the same site.  ChemCam LIBS shots tend to blow away a lot of dust, so this will create some nice clean spots for MAHLI to observe grain-scale properties.  The “Okoruso” target will then be brushed off with the DRT, and we’ll acquire MAHLI and APXS on the same spot.  We’ll also do a preload test to prepare for drilling on Wednesday.  Early the next morning, Curiosity will acquire several Navcam and Mastcam observations to monitor the atmosphere and search for dust devils.  These activities will be coordinated with REMS monitoring at the same time.  In the afternoon of the second sol we have a targeted science block, with ChemCam observations of “Omatako” and “Kombat” to investigate variations in composition near the drill site and another alteration zone.  Looking forward to more drilling on Wednesday!

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the 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 1326-1329: Wrapping Up at Lubango]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Curiosity's arm extended at Lubango

After a nice rest on Sol 1325, Curiosity was charged up and ready for lots of science! On Sol 1326, we started off with multispectral Mastcam observations of the pile of dumped powder from the “Lubango” drill target and the targets “Rubikon” and “Ebony”. Then ChemCam had a passive observation of the dump pile, followed by active observations using the laser on Rubikon as well as “Ida” and “Lorelei”. Mastcam documented the ChemCam observations as usual, and then finished the science block with an atmospheric observation. Later in the day on Sol 1326, MAHLI observed the dump pile and drill tailings, as well as a bedrock target called “Nara Valley”. Finally, APXS had an overnight observation of the dump pile.

In today’s weekend plan, which covers Sols 1327-1329, we start off with a sol focused on dumping out more of the powder acquired from the Lubango drill, this time after passing it through a sieve. Mastcam and MAHLI will take pictures of the new dump location before and after the sieved sample is dumped, and then APXS will do an overnight measurement. On Sol 1238, we have lots of remote sensing. Navcam and Mastcam have a few atmospheric observations, and then ChemCam will measure the pre- and post-sieve dump piles, Nara Valley, and a target called “Ovitoto”.

Then, on Sol 1329, Curiosity will do a short drive to a nearby patch of flat Stimson formation sandstone that should not have as much silica enrichment as what we see at Lubango. This will put us in position to drill that location sometime next week!

by Ryan Anderson

-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 1325: Taking it Easy]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Navcam view of the workspace at Lubango

It’s been a busy few days of drilling and related activities, so the plan for sol 1325 is a pretty simple one to allow the rover’s batteries to recharge. There is a short science block with a ChemCam observation of the drill tailings at “Lubango” along with Mastcam documentation. After that, MAHLI will take a closer look at the targets “Lianshulu” and “Rubikon”. Other than routine environmental monitoring measurements by DAN, RAD, and REMS, that’s about all for sol 1325! Taking it easy today allows us to do some remote sensing tomorrow and then wrap up our activities at this location over the weekend. On Sunday we will drive to our next drilling location, which is on a nearby patch of normal-looking Stimson sandstone. 

by Ryan Anderson

-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 1324: Power-constrained]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700

As expected, the Sol 1323 data we needed for planning today were received later than usual, so tactical planning started 3 hours later than normal.  This makes for a long day, especially for the European members of the MSL operations team.  But the real challenge today is power--the drill-related activities that have been commanded lately require discharging the batteries more deeply than we usually do.  So as SOWG Chair today, I put a lot of effort into fitting high-priority observations into the plan while limiting battery discharge.  As it turned out, we were able to preserve all of the strategically-planned activities, including dumping the unsieved portion of the sample and observing it with Mastcam, Navcam, MAHLI, and APXS.  ChemCam will measure the chemistry in the wall of the drill hole and CheMin will return mineralogical data.  But these activities will leave the batteries only 60% charged, not enough to continue the drill campaign tomorrow.  So it looks like the rover will have to take a break and recharge its batteries tomorrow.

by Ken Herkenhoff

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 1323: A new drill hole]]> Mon, 25 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 So far, all of the activities planned for last weekend have completed successfully, and we have a new drill hole on Mars!  The Sol 1323 plan is therefore to continue the Lubango drill campaign, transferring the sample to CHIMRA, sieving it, and delivering some of the <0.15 mm fraction to CheMin.  ChemCam will shoot its laser at "Oshikati," a potential target for the next drilling campaign, and Mastcam will acquire stereo images of a location that may be suitable for dumping the Lubango sample.  Overnight, CheMin will analyze the sample.

I'm SOWG Chair today, and the only significant problem I've had to deal with is how to fit everything we'd like to do into the available power.  We were able to squeeze in all of the top-priority activities, so I'm happy with the plan!

by Ken Herkenhoff

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 1320-1322: Drilling at Lubango]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1319 Navcam DRT

The contact science activities on Sol 1319 went well, and we analyzed another DRT location with MAHLI and APXS.  The drill pre-load test suggested that the Lubango block might have moved slightly, but the RPs feel comfortable to go ahead and drill in the weekend plan.

I was on duty as GSTL again today, and it’s always exciting when we get to drill a new sample on Mars.  In addition to the main drill activities, the plan includes several targeted science blocks, which will be used to characterize the drill location and search for the next potential drill site on unaltered Stimson bedrock.  On the second sol, the science block includes Mastcam multispectral characterization of the drill hole, followed by several Mastcam mosaics.  The color information provided by Mastcam is really helpful in distinguishing altered versus unaltered bedrock.  We also planned a small mosaic to assess a fracture that crosscuts an impact crater.  Then we’ll shoot several ChemCam targets to assess the block that we’re drilling, and a few sites that we might bump to next.  The science block on the second sol includes an additional target to assess unaltered Stimson bedrock.  Fingers crossed for a successful drilling campaign!

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the 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[Ten New THEMIS Geodetically Controlled Mosaics Available from the USGS]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 THEMIS infrared geodetically controlled mosaics, updated spacecraft pointing and orientation information (i.e., preliminary smithed SPICE kernels), and supporting documentation are available for download and public use from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Astrogeology Science Center.  Four daytime infrared and six nighttime infrared mosaics are newly available.  These mosaics are tied to a known coordinate system (USGS Viking Orbiter Mars Digital Image Model 2.1), spatially adjusted to align feature boundaries, and orthoprojected at 100 m/pixel scale.  This process results in sub-pixel registration between images and the daytime IR and nighttime IR mosaics to be well-registered to one another. These products enhance our knowledge (e.g., position, precision, and accuracy) of image placement and the location of small-scale surface features, and will benefit the current and future orbital acquisition of data, the planning of spacecraft and surface operations, and allows for easier and improved intercomparison of all Mars data sets.

 Please see the following website for product download and additional documentation: http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/maps/mars-themis-controlled-mosaics-and-preliminary-smithed-kernels

Please contact Robin Fergason (rfergason@usgs.gov) with any questions.

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<![CDATA[Sol 1318: DRT at Lubango]]> Wed, 20 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1317 Navcam Lubango

The bump on Sol 1317 went well, and we’re ready to start our drilling campaign at the “Lubango” fracture zone.  After a lot of discussion this morning, the plan evolved to include contact science at three targets near “Lubango.”  First we’ll use the DRT to clear off a fresh surface.  This DRT location is slightly offset from the intended drill location, so we’ll use MAHLI to image both the DRT location and the intended drill location.  Then we’ll do a short APXS integration on the intended drill target.  In the evening, we’ll squeeze in another APXS integration on a target named “Congula” which is a block of outcrop adjacent to “Lubango.”  Then we’ll place the APXS on the DRT location for an overnight integration.  I’ll be on duty tomorrow as GSTL, so it was good to catch up on all of the potential drill locations today.  Should be an exciting week of operations!

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the 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[Announcement: Planetary Geologic Mappers Meeting 2016]]> Tue, 19 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Dear Planetary Geologic Mappers,
Announcing, registration and abstract submissions are now open for the 2016 Planetary Geologic Mappers’ Meeting, to be held at the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona, June 13-15.
The website is: http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/pgm2016.  You can register and submit abstracts (LPSC style) through the website’s links.
Abstract Submission Deadline: Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Registration Deadline: Friday, June 3, 2016

Spread the word!  We hope to see you in Flagstaff in June.
Sincerely,
David A. Williams
GEMS Chair
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<![CDATA[Sol 1317: Preparing to Drill]]> Tue, 19 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1316 Navcam Lubango

 

On Sol 1316, Curiosity drove ~15 m back toward the “Lubango” target, which we first observed on Sol 1310.  “Lubango” is a high silica target that sits along a fracture in the Stimson formation.  The team decided to drill near this fracture to better understand both the altered and unaltered Stimson bedrock.  “Lubango” is the flat block on the right side of the above Navcam image.  The fracture is still slightly out of reach, so today’s plan involves a short bump to set us up for drilling activities.

The plan starts with six ChemCam activities aimed at identifying high silica targets.  We’ll also acquire a large Mastcam mosaic of the area to document the targets and potential drill sites.  Then we’ll bump forward and take post-drive imaging for targeting.  If all goes smoothly, we should be ready to DRT and start contact science tomorrow!

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the 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[Name Approved for Crater on Mars: Selevac]]> Tue, 19 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Selevac for a small crater on Mars. For more information, see the map for MC-24 in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Sol 1316: Back to Lobango]]> Mon, 18 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700

All of the activities planned for last weekend completed successfully, including the full MAHLI wheel imaging and associated rover motion of just over 1 meter.  The science team decided to return to the Lubango outcrop based on ChemCam results that show unusually high silica there.  Therefore, the Sol 1316 plan includes a drive back toward Lubango to find good targets for drilling.  Before the drive, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe bedrock targets "Outapi" and "Okongo," the RMI will acquire a 5x1 mosaic of "Piambo," Mastcam will take images of the Lubango area, and Navcam will search for dust devils.  Active DAN measurements are planned both before and after the drive, and CheMin will perform some calibration activities overnight.  I'm MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead again today, and had only the usual MARDI twilight image to plan.

by Ken Herkenhoff

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 1313-1315: Full MAHLI wheel imaging]]> Fri, 15 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700

Tactical planning was a bit hectic today as we reacted to yesterday's change in the near-term science goals, but the team quickly determined what is feasible and put together a good plan.  There are no good brushable targets in the arm workspace, so the DRT will not be used.  Rather, we selected 3 targets for MAHLI imaging and APXS measurements of natural surfaces.  I'm MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead today, and have been very busy!

The Sol 1313 plan starts with a mid-day ChemCam observation of the sky and Mastcam images of the Sun to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere.  The arm will be deployed that afternoon to take MAHLI images of "Kasane" and "Uau," on either side of a bright/dark boundary in the outcrop.  MAHLI will then take pictures of another bedrock target dubbed "Onesi" and of the rover wheels.  The APXS will be placed on Onesi for a couple evening integrations, then on Uau for an overnight integration.

Early the next morning, Navcam will search for clouds and Mastcam will measure dust again by imaging the Sun.  Later that morning, MAHLI will take pictures of the REMS ultraviolet sensor, which is done periodically to see how much dust is on the sensor.  Then the remote sensing instruments get busy:  Mastcam will take a multispectral image of "Gariep," a few rocks that were broken/crushed by the rover wheels, then ChemCam and Mastcam will observe Uau, Kasane and a bedrock target named "Kolmanskop."  The RMI will acquire a 5x1 mosaic of Mount Sharp, Mastcam will take stereo images of the "Rasthoff" area and image the Sun again, and Navcam will search for clouds.  Finally, the APXS will be placed on Kasane for an overnight integration, in parallel with a SAM scrubber cleaning activity.

On Sol 1315, the rover will complete the full set of MAHLI wheel images, bumping in between images to ensure that all parts of the wheels are imaged.  The usual set of post-drive images will then be acquired to set us up for planning on Monday, when we will probably drive again.

by Ken Herkenhoff

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 1312: The best laid plans…]]> Thu, 14 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1311 Navcam

The original plan for today included an ~11 m drive to get closure to a fracture in the Stimson formation.  However, during science discussion, the team talked further about how to best sample both altered and unaltered Stimson bedrock, and realized that some of the best places to accomplish the proposed sampling were likely behind us!  As a result of this discussion, the drive in today’s plan was pulled at the last minute.

So the modified plan for Sol 1312 includes several ChemCam and Mastcam observations to assess the composition of both altered and unaltered Stimson bedrock, and Mastcam imaging to document the fractures that run through the outcrop.  We won’t drive, but we’ll still take images to set us up for contact science and remote sensing in the weekend plan.  Talk about late-breaking science!

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the 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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