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 1355-1357: Coordinating with MRO]]> Fri, 27 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700

Our drive went well and Curiosity is now sitting on a nice patch of the Murray formation, putting us in a good position for a very busy holiday weekend! On Sol 1355, ChemCam has observations of the targets “Auchas”, “Kaisosi”, “Inamagando”, and “Horingbaai”. Mastcam will document those targets and then do some multispectral observations of the targets “Kunjas” and “Navachab”, plus a mosaic of the contact between the Murray and Stimson units. Navcam will round out the science block with some atmospheric observations.

Sol 1356 was an unusual one, with a bunch of small science blocks spread throughout the day. These were to enable a series of measurements leading up to a coordinated set of observations in the afternoon between the instruments on the rover on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Yes, this means a new HiRISE image of Curiosity is coming soon!)

First thing in the morning on Sol 1356, Mastcam and Navcam have a photometry observation. This is repeated a few hours later along with a multispectral Mastcam observation of the target “Inamagando”. A few hours later, the photometry observation is repeated again (the idea is to see how the brightness changes as the sun angle changes) and ChemCam has a passive sky observation. Finally, there is another photometry observation, a Mastcam “sky survey” observation, and Mastcam “sky flats”. These are followed by a long-distance ChemCam RMI image that I managed to squeeze into the plan. I am hoping that the similar time of day (and therefore similar lighting) will make it easier to compare the HiRISE and RMI images. After the RMI, Sol 1356 will wrap up with one final photometry observation.

On Sol 1357 we will drive again, followed by standard post-drive imaging. This plan will take us through the long weekend, so our next planning day will be on Tuesday.

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 1353-1354: Clear sailing]]> Thu, 26 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700
The Sol 1352 post-drive imaging shows that, while there are sandy ripples ahead, there are enough rocky patches that the rover should not have any problem driving toward the southwest.  This is what we were hoping, so we are planning to drive in that direction on Sol 1353.  But first, Mastcam will acquire stereo mosaics of the Murray-Stimson contact and a couple areas toward the west with nodular features.  After the drive, ChemCam will again autonomously measure the chemistry of a target selected by the AEGIS software. 

To get a head start on planning for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, two sols are being planned today.  We expect to receive the Sol 1352 data needed for planning the rest of the weekend tomorrow morning.  The Sol 1353 activities cannot be precisely targeted, so Navcam will look for clouds and Mastcam will measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere at various times that sol.  In addition, ChemCam will perform a routine calibration activity.  Once again it was an easy day for me as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead, with 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[Sol 1352: Scouting a path]]> Wed, 25 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700

We'd like to keep driving toward the southwest, but can't see all of the terrain ahead from our current location.  So the Sol 1352 plan includes a short drive to give us a better view.  Before the rover moves, Mastcam will acquire a large stereo mosaic of the "Breckhorn" ridge in front of the vehicle and extend the left Mastcam mosaic of the "Fracture Town" area to the west.  ChemCam and Mastcam will also observe a rock called "Tsongoari."  After the drive, images are planned that will hopefully allow the tactical team to find a safe path ahead.  It was an easy day for me as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead today, with only an end-of-drive MAHLI image and a MARDI twilight image.

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 1351: Ridge chemistry]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700
MSL is in a good position for contact science on the small ridge in front of the rover, so the Sol 1351 operations team decided to stay here and acquire chemical data.  First, CheMin will return the results of the latest analysis of the Lubango drill sample while ChemCam observes rock targets dubbed "Nauaspoort," "Tschudi" and "Kazungula."  The Right Mastcam will image Kazungula and Navcam will search for clouds, then the rover will take a short nap before acquiring a Mastcam mosaic of an outcrop at the western edge of the Naukluft Plateau.  Later in the afternoon, MAHLI images of bedrock near the small ridge ("Groendraai") and Nauaspoort (on the ridge) are planned.  The APXS will be placed on Groendraai for an evening integration, then on Nauaspoort for a longer, overnight integration.  It's been much easier for me as SOWG Chair today, as we have all the data we need for planning!

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 1350: Data processing delay]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700

I'm SOWG Chair again today, and started browsing the latest data from MSL early this morning.  To my dismay, the post-drive images that we expected to receive in time for planning today were not available!  It turned out that the data were received on Earth, but the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter operations team had some problems processing and transferring it to us.  We waited as long as we could for the data needed to plan contact science or mobility activities, then decided that we should plan Sol 1350 without them because planning time is limited by the early uplink window--we have to have the plan ready to send to the rover by this evening.  Fortunately, the images needed to pick remote sensing targets were processed in time to point ChemCam and Mastcam at the outcrop in front of the rover.  Planning targeted remote sensing is much easier than planning contact science or mobility, so the Sol 1350 plan includes ChemCam/Mastcam observations of "Oamites," "Aruab" and "Hosabes" as well as Mastcam images of the Sun and distant crater rim and Navcam searches for clouds and dust devils.  Mastcam will also acquire calibration data at various times of day (temperatures), and CheMin will perform another analysis of the Lubango drill sample. 

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 1348-1349: A smoother route]]> Fri, 20 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sand near the rover's wheel

Our drive on Sol 1346 was successful and brought us to a location with a view of the rugged ridges of the area we’ve been calling “Fracture Town”. In fact, from our current location, we decided that those ridges may be a bit too rough for comfort, so we are planning a slight change in course that will take us a bit south of our original path. The new path should be smoother and will also give us a better view of the contact between the Stimson and Murray units.

But before we set off on this revised path, we have some science to do at our current location! On Sol 1348, ChemCam has observations on the targets “Meob”, “Nomeib”, and “Munutum”. Mastcam will take documentation images of these targets as well as the one observed by ChemCam using AEGIS after our last drive. Mastcam will also observe the targets “Hudoab”, “Witputz”, “Sandamap”, plus a mosaic of Fracture Town. Once the remote sensing is done, we will brush off the target Meob, taking MAHLI images before and after. MAHLI will also take some images of the target Nomeib. That will be followed by a quick APXS observation of Nomeib and an overnight observation on Meob.

On Sol 1349 we have some more targeted science! ChemCam will observe targets “Annental” and “Nainais”, and in addition to documentation images of those targets, Mastcam will also do a multispectral observation of Meob. Navcam has an atmospheric observation as well. After that, the rover will drive and do standard post-drive imaging, plus a ChemCam AEGIS observation and a MARDI image of the ground beneath us.

Even though that is only two sols, it will take us through the weekend, since Saturday is a “soliday” which allows our times to synch back up with Mars time. 

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 1346-1347: Onward to Fracture Town]]> Wed, 18 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700

We are coming up on the edge of Naukluft plateau (again!). The plan for Sol 1346 starts off with ChemCam observations of the targets “Etusis” and “Etiro”, to continue measuring the variations in silica abundance around large fractures. Mastcam has a context image of these two targets, plus a mosaic looking ahead to an area we’ve been calling “Fracture Town”. After that, the rover will drive and do standard post-drive imaging, plus CheMin will do another analysis of the Okoruso sample.

On Sol 1347, the rover has a number of atmospheric observations, plus a ChemCam observation using the AEGIS software to target a nice patch of bedrock automatically. This is a new capability, and it’s really nice to be able to get some data after we drive without having Earth in the loop!

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 1344-1345: Touch and Go]]> Mon, 16 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700
The drive planned last weekend completed successfully, moving MSL less than 6 meters into position for contact science on the rocks broken by the rover wheels.  Planning is restricted this week, so we are planning 2 sols' worth of activities.  The first sol (1344) includes a "touch and go" that requires extra Rover Planner staffing, as both arm activities and a drive are planned.  It's great to be able to do so much in one plan, but we had to cram a lot of stuff into Sol 1344 because the drive has to be completed before the afternoon MRO communications relay to allow another drive to be planned on Wednesday.  So we had to decide which scientific observations were most important and work to fit them into the plan.  I helped select a target for a ChemCam observation of "Impalila," one of the freshly-exposed rock surfaces, and was glad to see that it made it into the plan.  Mastcam will acquire a multispectral observation of the broken rocks before MAHLI takes pictures of "Stampriet," Impalila, "Narubis," and "Swartmodder."  As I mentioned in my previous blog, it's difficult to get MAHLI close to these targets, so the camera will be placed no closer than 5 cm from any of the targets; we can't get any closer than 25 cm to Swartmodder.  After MAHLI imaging is completed and the arm stowed, the rover will drive toward the west, hopefully getting back to the Sol 1311 location, where the rover was before we decided to return to the Lubango area. 

Sol 1345 observations cannot be targeted because they will be taken after the drive, so ChemCam and Mastcam will perform routine sky measurements.  That's it!

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 1341-1343: A change of plans]]> Fri, 13 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700

The MSL team was originally planning a long drive this weekend, but there was enough interest in the fresh rock surfaces exposed near the rover that we decided to investigate them instead.  Before we could decide whether to "bump" to the rocks that were broken when the rover drove over them, we had to make sure they could be well imaged by MAHLI.  Taking MAHLI images of nearly vertical faces is difficult, because the turret at the end of the arm must be placed close to the ground.  While the Strategic Rover Planner worked to find ways to get MAHLI close to the fresh surfaces, we planned pre-drive remote sensing and arm activities:  On Sol 1341, ChemCam will observe its calibration target, a bedrock target named "Kobos 3," and the wall of the Okoruso drill hole.  Mastcam will then provide context for the ChemCam observations and take stereo mosaics of "Naob" and other bedrock near the rover.  Later that afternoon, the DRT will be used to brush dust off a brighter layer in the bedrock, with MAHLI images taken before and after the brushing.  We also planned close-up MAHLI images on a nearby bedrock target dubbed "Rooilepel" and a lower-resolution MAHLI mosaic of the area including Mariquita.  All of this MAHLI work made for a very busy day for me as MAHLI uplink lead! 

APXS will measure the chemistry of the brush spot overnight, before another busy sol begins.  The arm will be stowed to allow a Mastcam multispectral observation of the brush spot before the rover bumps over to the broken rocks.  During the drive, DAN will actively measure the subsurface hydrogen content by turning on its neutron generator.  After acquiring post-drive images, the rover will take a nap before CheMin performs another overnight analysis of the Okoruso drill sample.  Early on the morning of Sol 1343, Navcam will search for clouds and dust devils, and Mastcam will measure the optical thickness of dust in the atmosphere.  Later that sol, ChemCam will use the newly-validated AEGIS software to acquire LIBS measurements of an autonomously-selected target.  Of course, we are hoping that the software continues to work well!
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 1339-1340: Two Mars Years!]]> Wed, 11 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700

Happy birthday, Curiosity! As of today, the rover has been on the surface of Mars for two Mars years (almost four Earth years)! To celebrate, we have a new press release discussing our ongoing environmental measurements. These sorts of systematic measurements become more useful the longer the rover is on the surface to collect them, because we can compare how conditions change from year to year.

Of course, we had other ways to celebrate too. Our French colleagues at CNES (Centre national d'études spatiales) made a Mars-themed cake, complete with a little rover exploring a delicious-looking cocoa-dusted martian surface!

Tiramarsu cake made by our French colleagues

The mission doesn’t stop for us to eat cake though. Today we planned Sols 1339 and 1340, continuing our drill campaign at the target “Okoruso”. On Sol 1339, MAHLI will observe a pile of drill tailings that was dumped without being sieved. CheMin will complete the analysis from the Sol 1338 plan, and APXS will make an overnight measurement of the dump pile. On Sol 1340, we have a targeted science block with ChemCam passive and active observations of the dump pile, and active observations of the targets “Kobos 2”, “Stampriet”, and “Swartmodder”. Mastcam will document those targets, and then Mastcam and Navcam will make some atmospheric dust observations.

Here’s to many more martian birthdays for our rover! We still have a long way to go to catch up with Opportunity’s >6.5 Mars years of activity!

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 1337-1338: Curiosity’s two-day arm challenge, followed by a selfie]]> Mon, 09 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1332 Front Hazcam

Today’s two-sol plan is going to be quite an arm workout for Curiosity.  Over the weekend, Curiosity transferred and sieved the “Okoruso” drill sample, and analyzed it with CheMin.  That means that today’s plan is focused on arm activities and imaging the drill location.  The plan starts by dumping the pre-sieved drill sample.  Then we’ll use Mastcam to image the dump pile and drill site.  Next, we’ll target the drill hole with ChemCam, and we’ll also characterize a nearby bedrock target named “Ubib,” followed by a MAHLI image of the dump pile.  Overnight, it’s time for another arm workout – this time focused on MAHLI nighttime imaging of the drill hole and “Ubib” under different illumination conditions.  On the first sol, that’s already several hours of arm activities, while holding a 66 pound (30 kg) turret at the end.  After such an intense workout, what’s next?  Time for a selfie.  On the second sol Curiosity will take a MAHLI self portrait to document the drill site.  But unlike most selfies, Curiosity’s selfie requires 60 different images, and will take nearly an hour to acquire.  Finally, we’ll give the arm a break, and Curiosity will take several ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the drill tailings in the afternoon.  Talk about a good workout (for a lot of great 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[First Topographic Map of Mercury]]> Fri, 06 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700 This high-resolution map provides the first comprehensive view of Mercury’s entire surface, illustrating the planet’s craters, volcanoes and tectonic landforms. This product brings together observations and scientific findings from NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft, which was the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. Read more. . .

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<![CDATA[Sols 1334-1336: Successful drilling at Okoruso]]> Fri, 06 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1332 MAHLI Okoruso

Meet the latest drill hole on Mars: “Okoruso,” created on Sol 1332, seen in the above MAHLI image.  Drilling activities went well on Sol 1332, so the weekend plan is focused on sieving the sample and dropping it off to CheMin for analysis.  The plan starts with a short science block to acquire a ChemCam RMI image of the drill hole, and Mastcam stereo imaging of the pre-sieve dump location.  Then the “Okoruso” drill sample will be transferred and sieved and delivered to CheMin for analysis overnight.  The second sol includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the targets “Natas” and “Langental” to investigate variations in chemistry through the stratigraphy.  The third sol has an early morning science block full of ChemCam, Navcam, and Mastcam observations to monitor the composition and opacity of the, atmosphere and search for clouds.  In the afternoon we’ll use ChemCam to study the drill tailings and a freshly broken rock, followed by some repeated atmospheric observations.

By Lauren Edgar

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

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<![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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