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 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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<![CDATA[Sol 759-760 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ryan Anderson: Drill Baby, Drill!]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 It’s time to drill! The mini-drill over the weekend showed that the Pahrump Hills outcrop is nice and stable, so the main activity in the sol 759 plan is a full drill and the associated images from Mastcam and MAHLI. While the arm is out, we will also make some APXS measurements of the tailings from the mini-drill. We won’t have an uplink tomorrow, and the rover will be low on energy after the drilling activity, so Sol 760 will be a less eventful day, with just standard environmental monitoring.

 

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 755-758 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ryan Anderson: Mini-Drilling Pahrump Hills]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Curiosity has had a busy weekend! We arrived at the location called Pahrump Hills, which has a nice flat expanse of bedrock for us to drill and get our first taste of Mt. Sharp rocks. On Sol 755 we took pictures of the outcrop with MAHLI, brushed it with the Dust Removal Tool (DRT), and measured its composition with APXS. Then, on Sol 756 we did a “mini-drill” to test the stability of the rock before doing a full drill. We used Sol 757 to recharge after all of the arm activity of the previous sols.

In the sol 758 plan today, we have a lot going on. ChemCam will be zapping the targets Mammoth and Morrison, and Mastcam will take images of those targets, plus the tailings from the mini-drill. Then we will use MAHLI to take pictures of Mammoth and Moenkopi, we will use the DRT to brush off Moenkopi, and then do some more MAHLI imaging afterward. Finally, APXS will measure the composition of the targets Moenkopi and Mammoth.

 

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 753 Update On Curiosity From MSL Scientist Lauren Edgar: A Bright Outcrop]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 After a successful 114 m drive through Amargosa Valley on Sol 751, we are planning our arrival at the Pahrump Hills! The scenery is fantastic, and this Navcam image shows the bright outcrop that we intend to investigate. Planning is restricted this week, so today we are planning Sols 753 and 754. On the first sol we are planning several Mastcam and Navcam observations to characterize the terrain and the local geology, as well as a SAM observation to study the composition of the atmosphere. A short ~30 m drive on Sol 753 should put Curiosity in a good position at the Pahrump Hills. Sol 754 will consist of 2 hours of untargeted remote sensing, including ChemCam calibration activities to prepare for the Pahrump investigation, and a Navcam movie to monitor the atmosphere. While Curiosity is busy making her way towards the Pahrump Hills, the MSL Science Team is meeting in Pasadena this week to discuss recent results and plan upcoming science investigations!

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 751 Update On Curiosity From USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Heading for the Hills]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 As expected, the Sol 748 drive put the rover in a good location to view the path toward Pahrump Hills. Planning is restricted this week, so Sols 751 and 752 were planned on Monday, and 2 more sols will be planned on Wednesday. This planning cadence has been used for years on the Mars Exploration Rovers, and will become the norm in the MSL extended mission. For Sol 751, we had the difficult choice of examining the rocks in front of us with the arm instruments or driving toward the Pahrump Hills outcrop. Because we expect to encounter the same rock unit on the other side of Pahrump Hills, we decided to drive. But first, Mastcam and ChemCam will examine nearby targets "Shinarump" and "Upheaval Dome," the latter named after an eroded impact structure in southeastern Utah. On Sol 752, ChemCam will shoot "blind" at the surface to the right of the rover, and Mastcam will acquire a 360-degree panorama.

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 748-750 Update On Curiosity From USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Peeking Over the Ridge]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The Sol 747 post-drive data were not received until 11:30 PDT today, so we are planning another "rapid-traverse" sol. After acquiring 3 Mastcam mosaics on the morning of Sol 748, the rover will drive as far as possible to a low ridge toward the southwest. The view from the ridge crest should allow planning of a longer drive toward Pahrump Hills. Because of the late start, only one sol of activities is being planned today--the rover will acquire only background RAD and REMS data on Sols 749 and 750.

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 747 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Pahrump Hill mosaic]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The Sol 746 drive put the rover in a good location for imaging the terrain ahead, which looks good for a long drive on Sol 747.  The Sol 746 data did not hit the ground until after 11:00 PDT (as expected), so today is another "rapid traverse" planning sol and the time available for science observations is therefore more limited than usual.  Because the view of the bright "Pahrump Hills" outcrop is good from our current location, Mastcam stereo mosaics of Pahrump Hills and other features of interest are planned for the morning of Sol 747.  The Pahrump Hills mosaic should be useful in planning investigations of this nice outcrop of the rocks that form the base of Mt. Sharp

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 746 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: NASA Teleconference]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700
The Sol 744 drive went as planned (32 meters), and another drive is planned for Sol 746.  Because we can't see the terrain immediately beyond the small saddle dubbed "Jubilee Pass," the rover will drive about 9 meters into the saddle, then take images of the other side.  But first, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe targets dubbed "Anvil Spring Canyon," "Epaulet Peak," and "Copper Queen."  After the drive, another ChemCam "blind" observation of the surface to the right of the rover is planned. 

Back here on Earth, there will be a teleconference tomorrow to discuss the status of the mission and the upcoming science campaign.  Please tune in!

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 745 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ryan Anderson: Untargeted Science]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 We have not received any data from sol 744 yet, so sol 745 is a simple day of untargeted remote sensing. ChemCam has an observation of the sky (with the laser off) to measure the gases in the atmosphere, and a “blind” LIBS observation off to the right of the rover. Mastcam will take a context image for the ChemCam blind observation so we can tell what we shot, and will also make some “tau” observations of the sun to measure how much dust is in the atmosphere. We will also do standard DAN and REMS environmental monitoring.

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 744 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ryan Anderson: Driving in Amargosa Valley]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The weekend plan was successful: we got good data from the Homewood contact science target, plus a nice long 92.6 meter drive on Sol 743. The plan for Sol 744 is to do routine wheel imaging, plus Mastcam mosaics of a mesa in front of the rover named “Jubilee Pass,” and a mosaic of the north and south walls of Amargosa Valley.  ChemCam will be zapping two targets named “Butte Valley” and “Antelope Valley,” and there will be supporting Mastcam images of those targets too. Navcam will be taking a movie watching for clouds above Mount Sharp.

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 741-743 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Busy Weekend]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The weekend plan is very ambitious, with a bunch of targeted remote science observations on Sol 741, contact science on Sol 742, and a long drive on Sol 743.  It has been a busy day for me as SOWG Chair, partly because our favorite contact science target was too difficult to reach with the arm instruments and we had to scramble to find another target that was both reachable and scientifically interesting.  We settled on a target dubbed "Homewood," which will be examined by MAHLI and APXS.  We now have a good view of the path into Amargosa Valley, so we expect to make good progress on Sol 743. 

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 740 Update On Curiosity From MSL Scientist Lauren Edgar: Approaching Amargosa Valley]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Curiosity is about to ingress into Amargosa Valley.  This Navcam image from Sol 739 shows some of the beautiful layered rocks that we have been driving over and analyzing recently.  The plan today includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the targets “Timber Mountain,” “Hunter Mountain” and “Wood Canyon,” as well as a Mastcam mosaic of “Owens Valley,” and a long distance ChemCam observation of Pahrump Hills.  The drive today will be short (~12 m) to the edge of the ingress to Amargosa Valley.  At the end of the drive we will acquire better imaging into the valley to help plan the ingress drive, which will hopefully occur over the weekend.  After the drive on Sol 740, Curiosity will acquire post-drive imaging for targeting, including Mastcam imaging of the workspace to prepare for possible contact science over the weekend, and standard post-drive imaging.

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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