USGS Astrogeology Science Center Astrogeology News http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news News about current and upcoming space missions, USGS gelogic products and historical exhibits en-us <![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[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[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[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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<![CDATA[Sol 1311: Take Me To Fracture Town]]> Wed, 13 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Navcam view toward large fractures seen from orbit

Today I was on duty as KOP again, but we got to sleep in: we started at 7 am instead of 6:30!

Curiosity is in good shape and our drive was successful. In the Sol 1311 plan, we have ChemCam observations of the targets “Garnet Koppie”, “Amspoort”, “Soutrivier”, and “Uubvley”. Garnet Koppie and Amspoort will allow us to compare the composition of a bright fracture halo and the nearby bedrock, Soutrivier is targeting a small white vein, and Uubvley is a fin of material sticking up near a large fracture. ChemCam also has a long distance RMI observation of the Peace Vallis channel off to the north. We talked a lot about possible places to image with Mastcam, but decided that we will have a better view of everything of interest after another drive or two, so Mastcam just has documentation images of the ChemCam targets.

After the targeted observations, we have a short drive to put the rover in a better position to see the terrain in front of it. This will allow us to drive into the area with large fractures visible from orbit, which we have started informally calling “Fracture Town” but which will probably get a more official name soon.

The plan finished with some early morning atmospheric observations on Sol 1312, including a ChemCam passive sky observation, Mastcam observation of the amount of dust in the atmosphere, and Navcam movies to watch for clouds.

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 1310: Good morning Mars!]]> Tue, 12 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700

Well, that was an early morning! I was on duty as the KOP today and we started at 6:30 am, so I was up and looking at new pictures of Mars before sunrise. Normally I would not be happy about getting up so early, but I reminded myself this morning that getting to help run a nuclear-powered laser-wielding robot on Mars is worth losing a little bit of sleep every once in a while!

Our drive finally went according to plan, bringing us a bit closer to the edge of the Naukluft plateau. We plan to continue driving today and tomorrow, aiming to get within reach of some interesting large fractures that we can see in the orbital data to do contact science over the weekend. There are also some tantalizing outcrops coming up that should give us nice views of the stratigraphy of the Stimson unit, but they are not quite visible yet.

We are only expecting to get a small amount of data downlinked before tomorrow, so we kept today’s plan for Sol 1310 nice and simple. In the morning, we have a ChemCam observation and Mastcam documentation of a nearby alteration halo around a fracture, followed by a small Mastcam mosaic of a similar bright halo and fracture at a location we are calling “Oswater”. After that, Curiosity will drive for about 20 meters and we will collect our standard post drive imaging.

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 1309: Can't Catch a Break]]> Mon, 11 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Navcam view of the northern rim of Gale crater.

We just can’t catch a break lately! Curiosity is healthy but unfortunately the plan for the weekend was not transmitted to Mars due to a Deep Space Network outage. That means that the contact science that was planned for the weekend is lost, but the team decided that it was not important enough for us to delay driving. Today’s plan attempts to at least recover the remote sensing observations before we move on.

The Sol 1309 plan starts off with a continuation of the previous mosaic of the target “Rasthof” plus a multispectral observation of the target “Ruacana”. ChemCam then has a long distance RMI mosaic of some mesas to the west of the Peace Vallis fan, followed by an analysis of some dark cap rock at the target “Kapako”. Mastcam will document Kapako and finish up with a small mosaic of some interesting textures in a nearby part of the outcrop. After that, we have a short drive followed by standard post-drive imaging. In the afternoon, Mastcam and Navcam have several atmospheric observations and MARDI has an image of the terrain beneath the rover. Finally, in the early morning of Sol 1310 Mastcam has a mosaic of Mt. Sharp.

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[Sols 1307-1308: Deja vu all over again]]> Fri, 08 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700

On Sol 1305, the rover straightened its wheels in preparation for a drive, but then the fault that prevented driving earlier this week occurred again, and the vehicle did not move.  The engineers are preparing to send parameter changes that will eliminate mobility actuator sensitivity to the transient power spikes.

Fortunately, there are some rocks in front of the rover that are suitable for contact science, so the arm will be deployed on Sol 1307.  But first, ChemCam and Mastcam will examine a bedrock target named "Divundu" and rock target "Kapako," and Mastcam will acquire a full multispectral set of images of a distant bright ridge called "Ruacana."  Later that sol, MAHLI will take a couple images of Divundu before the DRT brushes dust off of the target.  MAHLI will then acquire a full suite of images of the brushed spot and smaller sets of images of a rock named "Gaio" and a bedrock target called "Lucira."  The APXS will be placed on Gaio for a couple of evening integrations, then on Divundu for a long overnight integration.

Early on the morning of Sol 1308, the Right Mastcam will acquire a mosaic of the north side of Aeolis Mons ("Mt. Sharp").  Later that morning, Navcam will search for clouds and dust devils, and Mastcam will image the crater rim to determine how much dust is in the air within Gale crater.  In the afternoon, the arm will be stowed before Mastcam acquires a multispectral observation of the Divundu brush spot before the rover attempts to drive again.  After taking the usual post-drive images, the rover will go to sleep and recharge its batteries in preparation for Monday's activities.  Only 2 sols are being planned today, to get the tactical schedule back in sync with "Mars time."

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 1305-1306: Deja vu]]> Wed, 06 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700

Once again, the Sol 1303 drive stopped during wheel steering, apparently due to another short in the RTG.  While the power and mobility engineers investigate the fault and ways to respond to them, another drive will be attempted on Sol 1305.  The remote science observations made on Sol 1303 went well, so only one ChemCam/Mastcam observation is planned before the Sol 1305 drive, of a rock with interesting surface texture dubbed "Katwitwi."  Early on Sol 1306, Navcam, Mastcam and ChemCam will look for clouds and dust devils, and measure the amount of dust and various gasses in the atmosphere.  Later that sol, Mastcam will observe the Sun again and Navcam will acquire a panorama of the rover deck to look for changes in the distribution of dust and debris.  Overnight, CheMin will analyze and empty sample cell to improve instrument calibration.

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 1303-1304: Driving Again]]> Mon, 04 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700

The Sol 1301 drive halted after only 4.5 meters of progress, apparently due to a short in the RTG that caused a steering actuator fault.  This type of fault has occurred before, so we are planning a drive toward the northwest on Sol 1303.  Before the drive, lots of remote sensing science is planned, starting with a Right Mastcam mosaic of an outcrop toward the southwest dubbed "Rasthof."  Then ChemCam and Mastcam will observe bedrock targets "Tsondab," "Omingonde," and "Marble Koppie," and Mastcam will observe the Sun and the distant crater rim to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere.  After the drive and the usual post-drive observations, on Sol 1304 ChemCam will shoot its laser at its titanium calibration target and Navcam will search for clouds 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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