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[Sols 785-786 Update On Curiosity From USGS Scientist Lauren Edgar: Comet Siding Spring]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Sols 785-786 Update On Curiosity From USGS Scientist Lauren Edgar: Comet Siding Spring

Over the weekend, a number of Mars spacecraft observed a rare encounter with comet Siding Spring.  Curiosity successfully observed the comet with Mastcam, Navcam and ChemCam RMI.  Today we’re planning two sols during which Curiosity will drive closer to the rock outcrop “Book Cliffs,” and perform some remote sensing.  This is part of a bigger campaign to survey the Pahrump Hills.  During the drive we will acquire a series of MARDI images to document the geology along the traverse.  The plan also includes ChemCam observations of the targets “Ibex Pass,” “Hayden Peak,” and “Saddle Peak” with corresponding Mastcam images to characterize the local geology.  After the drive we’ll acquire our standard post-drive imaging.  The plan also includes several Navcam observations to monitor the atmosphere.  I’ll be on duty as the Geology Science Theme Lead starting on Sol 787 so I’m getting up to speed on the current science plans and looking forward to exploring the Pahrump Hills!

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 782-784 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Comet Observations]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The experience I gained planning the MARDI drive "video" for Sol 780 helped me prepare for another MARDI video during the Sol 782 drive.  I'm MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead again today, and got a good start on the video and post-drive MAHLI/MARDI observation planning.  But concerns were raised about the safety of Sol 783 ChemCam observations of Comet Siding Spring after the Sol 782 drive, so the drive was deleted from the plan along with the associated MARDI and MAHLI imaging.  While I was disappointed by this change of plans, I recognized the importance of the comet observations.  Comet Siding Spring will be closer to Mars this weekend than any comet has approached Earth in historic times, and all the spacecraft at Mars will be observing this rare event.  I look forward to seeing the results!

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 781 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Dumping Sample]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The 22-meter Sol 780 drive completed as planned, placing the rover near "Book Cliffs" (visible at the right side of this image).  Sol 781 planning was interrupted this morning by the "Great Shakeout" earthquake drill, but the tactical team recovered and stayed on schedule the rest of the day.  After making ChemCam and Mastcam observations of "Delta," "San Rafael Swell," and "Castle Valley" (all named after places in Utah), the drill sample will be dumped onto the ground and CHIMRA cleaned out.  Then the APXS will be placed on the dump pile for an overnight integration.  Finally, before dawn on Sol 782, Mastcam will attempt observations of Comet Siding Spring and Mars' satellites Phobos and Deimos.

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 780 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: MARDI video]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0700 We were originally planning to perform some arm tests on Sol 780 to help diagnose the fault that occurred last weekend, but it was decided that they were too risky.  So a drive toward a target dubbed "Book Cliffs" was planned instead.  During the drive, MARDI will acquire images of the surface just behind the left front wheel to show what the Pahrump Hills rocks look like all along the rover traverse.  As MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead, I was busy today planning the details of this MARDI "video."  We also planned a MAHLI stowed image at the end of the drive, which is safe because no arm motions are involved.

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 779 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Using the arm]]> Tue, 14 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The Sol 778 data show that the arm instruments are safe, and the arm is ready for more activities.  MAHLI will not be used until the recent arm problems are better understood, to ensure that MAHLI's lens does not get dirty if the dust cover is left open again.  However, the APXS can be used, so the Sol 779 plan includes another attempt to measure the chemistry of "Morrison" (see Sol 767 blog).  In addition, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe several targets at various distances from the rover.  I'm scheduled as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead tomorrow, so I'm spending some time today to get up to speed on the near-term plans.

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 778 Update On Curiosity From USGS Scientist Lauren Edgar: MAHLI recovery]]> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Rocks and sand ripples near the rover

Over the weekend, Curiosity was supposed to perform a number of MAHLI activities to image the drill hole and the target Morrison, along with APXS on Morrison, but unfortunately an arm fault occurred during the observation of the drill hole.  This left MAHLI with its cover open.  Fortunately, some JPL engineers came in on Saturday to make a recovery plan and successfully closed the MAHLI cover.  A team of engineers is working to better understand the arm faults before we use MAHLI again.  And even though today is a holiday, the rover doesn’t have the day off so we are planning some remote sensing and CheMin analysis.  The Sol 778 plan includes ChemCam of the targets “Whirlwind,” “Kings Peak,” “Red Rock” and “Bald Mountain,” to characterize the nearby rocks and sand ripples.  The plan also includes Mastcam imaging of the southwest valley walls to investigate the local stratigraphy, along with some Navcam observations to monitor the atmosphere.  

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 775-777 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Weekend Planning]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The Sol 775 MAHLI activities were planned in advance, so it was an easy day for me as uplink lead--I only had to make minor changes to the plan.  MAHLI will take another image of the drill hole from 25 cm above it, similar to the image acquired on Sol 759, but later in the day when the sun will illuminate the entire scene.  Then MAHLI will take images of the 5 locations on "Morrison" that will be measured by the APXS.  All of the images will be taken late enough in the day that they should be fully illuminated by the Sun.  On Sol 776, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe several targets at various distances from the rover, then CheMin will analyze the drill sample again overnight.  The CheMin analysis requires a fair amount of power, so the rover will recharge most of the following day.  Finally, after sunset on Sol 777, Mastcam, and ChemCam will observe the bright star Vega to help refine plans to observe comet Siding Spring next weekend.

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 774 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: APXS raster on Morrison]]> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0700 I'm scheduled to support MAHLI/MARDI uplink tomorrow, so today I'm getting familiar with recent results and near-term plans after spending a couple days focusing on other projects.  The "Confidence Hills" campaign continues to go well, with a successful dropoff of drill sample to SAM on Sol 773.  The rover will recharge its batteries after the overnight SAM sample analysis, then use the arm instruments after sunset on Sol 774.  APXS will take 4 measurements of the target "Morrison", then MAHLI will image the bottom of the drill hole using its LEDs for illumination.  MAHLI received merges of the nighttime images of the sides of the drill hole on Sol 771 (one of which shows bluish ChemCam laser spots down one side of the hole), but has not acquired nighttime images of the bottom of the hole yet.

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 771 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Arm recovery]]> Mon, 06 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0700 During the nighttime MAHLI imaging on Sol 768, there was a problem with arm positioning that prevented the subsequent arm activities from completing.  The problem is understood, and the arm is in a safe configuration.  So the Sol 771 plan includes arm recovery activities as well as ChemCam and Mastcam observations of nearby targets named "Pink Cliffs," "Comb Ridge," "White Cliffs," "Crowley," and "Fairyland Point."  Overnight (into the morning of Sol 772), CheMin will analyze the new drill sample again, to improve the quality of the mineralogic measurement. 

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 768-770 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Preparing SAM]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The tactical team took a day off Thursday to make the transition from restricted (every other day) to nominal (daily) planning.  That meant that, to complete all of the planning for the weekend in time to send the commands to the rover by the start of Sol 768 (at 7 PM PDT), planning had to start 1.5 hours earlier than usual (at 6:30 AM PDT).  It's good that we started early, because the weekend plan is full:  After SAM preconditioning during the day, MAHLI will image the "Confidence Hills" drill hole after sunset on Sol 768 using its LEDs to illuminate the hole and tailings.  SAM activities typically require lots of power and are best done during the night, so the rover will recharge during the day on Sol 769 before performing a 10-hour overnight SAM evolved gas analysis without sample.  This analysis will provide a good baseline for the upcoming SAM measurements of the drill sample, currently planned to begin on Sol 771.  In preparation for those measurements, SAM will perform another preconditioning late on Sol 770, after the rover recharges during the day. 

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 767 Update On Curiosity From MSL Scientist Lauren Edgar: Dump Pile]]> Wed, 01 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0700

Curiosity continues to investigate the Pahrump Hills outcrop. The Sol 767 plan includes MAHLI and APXS observations of the target Morrison, as well as MAHLI images of the drill hole and dump pile (the dump pile consists of the part of the drilled sample that did not make it through the 150-micron sieve). Today’s plan also includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the targets “Paoha,” “The Maze,” and “Quartz Spring,” to characterize the drill tailings and other rock features. There is also an atmospheric observation to look for clouds, along with standard RAD and REMS activities. In addition to the science observations, the Sol 767 plan includes SAM cup conditioning to prepare for upcoming SAM activities. Tomorrow will be a soliday, and then we are looking forward to upcoming SAM and CheMin activities.

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 766 Update on Curiosity from MSL Scientist Lauren Edgar: Confidence Hills]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700

Curiosity is currently investigating the Pahrump Hills outcrop. This Navcam image from Sol 762 shows part of the workspace with the arm down, analyzing the Confidence Hills drill tailings. While we wait for CheMin to tell us what minerals are present in the drilled sample, we will spend Sol 766 doing targeted remote sensing. The two-hour science block includes ChemCam observations of the interior wall of the Confidence Hills drill hole, as well as nearby fractures (“Straight Cliffs”) and upcoming MAHLI and APXS targets named “Comb Ridge” and Morrison. There are also several Mastcam observations to document the ChemCam targets and image the nearby sand ripples. The plan also includes a number of atmospheric observations to monitor the opacity and search for clouds and dust devils. On Sol 767 we’re planning to do contact science on the target Morrison, and prepare for possible SAM activities.

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 765 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ryan Anderson: Feeding CheMin]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 MAHLI image of the drill hole and tailings at Pahrump Hills.

After our successful drill last week, the main event in today’s sol 765 plan is dropping off the drilled sample in CheMin, which will tell us what minerals are in the rocks of Pahrump Hills. CheMin works by shining a beam of X-rays through the sample and recording how the X-rays reflect off of the structure of the crystals in the sample. To make sure that every possible orientation of the crystals is measured, the sample holder vibrates, causing the powdered rock to mix around in the sample cell.

The drill sample has been sieved so that only particles smaller than 150 microns will go to CheMin. The rover will dump out the particles that are coarser than 150 microns, take pictures of them with Mastcam and MAHLI, and measure their composition with APXS. Not all of the fine-grained sample will go to CheMin: some will be saved for analysis by SAM, and in case we want to re-analyze it with CheMin.

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.]]>
<![CDATA[Sol 762-764 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Sample Handling]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Arm activities will resume on Sol 762, starting where they left off on Sol 759, with transfer of the drill sample to the scoop and Mastcam imaging of it.  Then the APXS will be placed on the drill tailings (target dubbed "Paradox") for an overnight integration.  In addition, ChemCam will observe targets "Panum" and "Stovepipe Wells" and Mastcam will image the drill tailings through all filters.  Finally, SAM will heat a sample from the previous drill target "Windjana" ( still held in a sample cup) and measure evolved noble gases overnight on Sols 763 and 764.  As MAHLI/MARDI PUL1 again today, I focused on planning MAHLI observations of the drill tailings, but they were deleted because of concerns about the overall complexity of the weekend plan.  We hope to take these MAHLI images on Sol 765.


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 761 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Software patch]]> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The Sol 759 drill hole looks good, but there was a problem with one of the rover's gyroscopes that halted the transfer of drill sample to the scoop.  This did not significantly affect Sol 761 planning, which is dominated by patching flight software and SAM preconditioning.  Completion of the sample handling will be planned later.  As MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead today I therefore concentrated on planning the images we would like to take of the drill tailings and perhaps other targets. 

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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