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 1087-1088: Bright features]]> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700

The complex, nearly 39-meter Sol 1085 drive completed successfully, leaving the rover in another target-rich area.  Again, I helped pick targets for ChemCam observations--our favorites were on the brighter parts of the outcrop just south of the rover.  The targets for ChemCam and Mastcam observations were named "Fitzpatrick," "Keith," and "Fred and George Creek."  Mastcam will also acquire 2 mosaics before the rover drives away on Sol 1087.  Planning is still restricted, so we also planned Sol 1088, which starts with early-morning Mastcam and Navcam images of the sun and sky.  Similar observations are planned around noon that sol, to measure daily variations in atmospheric dust and clouds.  Finally, CheMin's inlet funnel will be vibrated in an attempt to remove a particle from the screen over the funnel. 

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 1085-1086: Rough road ahead]]> Mon, 24 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700

MSL had a good weekend, and returned lots of data including nice MAHLI images of Ravalli.  The nearly 22-meter Sol 1083 drive completed as planned, and placed the rover near some nice rock outcrops.  I helped the planning team select targets for ChemCam observations; we settled on two that were named "Tinder Box" and "Gordon."  Mastcam will acquire mosaics of these targets as well as "Centennial Range" and "Willow Ridge."  There isn't time/power for much more science, as another drive is planned for Sol 1085 and an overnight SAM atmospheric observation.  ChemCam, Mastcam and Navcam will make more atmospheric observations late in the morning of Sol 1086, along with the usual REMS background measurements.  The path ahead is rough but looks very interesting! 

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 1082-1084: Nice view]]> Fri, 21 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700

I'm having another very busy day as SOWG Chair, as we are planning lots of activities to keep the rover busy this weekend.  The vehicle is on a local high spot that gives us a spectacular view of the terrain ahead.  But there aren't many targets in front of the rover that are suitable for contact science, so we selected only one (called "Ravalli") to investigate using MAHLI and APXS.  We had time for another contact science target, but decided that it would not be worthwhile to study the smaller rocks that are within arm's reach. 

On Sol 1082, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe Ravalli and a brighter rock dubbed "Sawtooth" before Mastcam acquires a 23x6 mosaic of the nice outcrops ahead.  Mastcam and Navcam will look up at the sky at about the same time that the Mars Odyssey orbiter will be passing over, to compare results of observations from above and the surface.  Then the arm will be deployed for contact science and the APXS placed on Ravalli for overnight integration. 

ChemCam and Mastcam will observe a couple more bright blocks on Sol 1083, named "Stonewall" and "Wolsey," before the rover drives toward the south.  We'll then acquire the usual post-drive images and DAN active data.  On the last sol (1084), ChemCam will take some calibration data and SAM will clean its scrubber in preparation for future measurement. 

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 1080-1081: Official New Selfie!]]> Wed, 19 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700

We had another successful drive on 1079, going about 29 meters this time. The plan for sols 1080-1081 is pretty similar to the previous plan: remote sensing and a drive on the first day, and untargeted science on the second day. On sol 1080, ChemCam has observations of the targets “Red Lodge”, “Mowry”,  and “Rosebud”, with accompanying Mastcam images. Mastcam will also take a 19-frame stereo mosaic of a cliff dubbed “Judith River”. After the drive, we have our standard post-drive imaging, plus an active measurement with DAN.

On sol 1081, since we won’t have the data down yet to do targeted observations, we have a bunch of atmospheric monitoring with REMS, Navcam, Mastcam, and ChemCam. We’re also planning a 360 degree Mastcam mosaic to take in our new surroundings and MARDI will take a picture of the ground under the rover.

Meanwhile, here on Earth, NASA has released the "official" versions of the low-angle selfies taken by MAHLI while we were drilling at "Buckskin". I don't know about you, but I have a new wallpaper image!

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 1078-1079: Back to restricted planning]]> Mon, 17 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700

I had an easy planning day as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead today, because another drive is planned for Sol 1078 with only the usual post-drive MAHLI (stowed) and MARDI (twilight) imaging.  Planning is restricted again (Mars and Earth time are out of sync), so we are planning two sols.  Before driving away from the current location, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe rock targets dubbed "Huson" and "Ignatius" and Mastcam will image another rock called "Hodown."  After the drive, an overnight CheMin integration on the drill sample is planned, followed by atmospheric observations early on the morning of Sol 1079.  More Navcam atmospheric observations are planned later that sol, along with some ChemCam calibration activities.  I'm glad that we are making good progress toward Mt. Sharp!

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 1075-1077: Time for SAM!]]> Fri, 14 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700

We had another successful drive on sol 1074, putting us in a good position for the weekend! The main activity for the weekend is using the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument to analyze some of the recent drill sample that we collected. SAM activities will take up all of sol 1075. On sol 1076, we will use MAHLI to check on the health of our wheels, and SAM will do its Evolved Gas Analysis (EGA) measurement on the sample.

On sol 1077 we have lots of ChemCam and Mastcam activities. Mastcam has a 20x2 mosaic of an area called “Fournier”, followed by ChemCam observations of the targets “Butler”, “Evaro”, “Coldwater”, and “Alberton” and associated Mastcam documentation images. Navcam also has an atmosphere monitoring observation of the horizon to the north.

Later in the afternoon on sol 1077, ChemCam has a calibration observation and Mastcam has another observation of “Alberton” to try to see textures highlighted by the lower sun angle. Navcam also has a couple more observations, watching for clouds and dust devils.

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 1074: Crazy Mountain]]> Thu, 13 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700

The 47 meter drive on sol 1073 went exactly as expected, putting us in a good position for the sol 1074 plan. It’s a pretty simple plan today, with time for a single ChemCam observation of a target called “Crazy Mountain”. I got to pick the name for this target (one of my favorite parts of being involved in operations), and it seemed fitting since the target is on a big layered block that is tilted at a crazy angle. Mastcam will take a 3x3 mosaic of this rock, plus a right-eye image of the target “Blodget” and a 20x1 mosaic of the outcrops and mesas to the east, named “Sa-ol-Sooth”. After that, we will drive some more, and do some post-drive imaging so that we can do some targeted observations in the weekend plan.

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 1073: Drive-Thru Geology]]> Wed, 12 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700

The drive on sol 1072 was successful, with a total distance travelled of about 35 meters. For sol 1073, Mastcam will be very busy taking pictures to document the geology in our new location. We are planning a 31x1 mosaic of the outcrop in Marias Pass, plus a 13x3 mosaic of “Mt. Shields” (not to be confused with Mt. Sharp!) and a 10x3 stereo mosaic of “Gunton”. Navcam also has 8 frames of atmospheric observations of the horizon to the north. Once we are done taking pictures, the plan is to drive for another ~40 meters.

After the drive, we will do our normal post-drive imaging so that we can plan activities for tomorrow, plus an “active” measurement with DAN (meaning that the instrument will produce neutrons to help detect hydrogen in the subsurface, rather than relying on natural background neutrons). The plan also includes some early morning Navcam and Mastcam atmospheric observations on sol 1074.

I’m on duty as science Payload Uplink Lead (sPUL) for ChemCam tomorrow, so I’m hoping we will have some time to zap some targets before we continue driving!

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 1071-1072: What we've got here is a failure to communicate]]> Tue, 11 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700

Unfortunately over the weekend there was an outage at the Deep Space Network, which prevented the plan for the weekend from being sent to Curiosity. So, instead of a busy weekend, Curiosity was in “runout” mode, making routine environmental monitoring measurements and waiting patiently for more instructions. The sol 1071 and 1072 plans are focused primarily on recovering the observations that were lost in the weekend plan, before we drive away.

On sol 1071, ChemCam has a passive observation of “Coombs”, and active (laser-firing) observations of three locations on “Missoula”. Mastcam will take some supporting images, and Navcam has some atmospheric observations. In the sol 1072 plan, ChemCam has active observations of the target “Stenerson” and another location on “Missoula”, and Mastcam will once again take supporting images, plus an observation of the sun. After that, the plan is leave Marias Pass and drive about 35 meters to the southwest.

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 1068-1070: Back at Missoula]]> Fri, 07 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700

Curiosity had a successful drive of 19 m on Sol 1067, and we are currently back at Missoula for more targeted science.  The goal is to perform a detailed study of the Stimson-Pahrump contact, and to determine the relative timing of some of the veins that we’ve observed here.

 The three-sol plan is a busy one, with a lot of ChemCam analyses.  On Sol 1068 Curiosity will acquire ChemCam LIBS on four different “Missoula” targets (Missoula A, B, C, and D), to understand the chemistry across the contact.  We’ll also acquire several Mastcam images to document those targets.  On Sol 1070, we’ll acquire a ChemCam passive observation on the target “Coombs” (“passive” means that we don’t fire the laser, we just passively collect the spectrum of the target), and a regular ChemCam LIBS observation on the target “Stenerson.”  Throughout the weekend plan, Curiosity will also perform a number of environmental monitoring activities, to assess the opacity of the atmosphere and search for dust devils.  After thoroughly investigating this outcrop with ChemCam, we’ll finally resume our drive through Marias Pass on Sol 1070, and take some post-drive imaging to prepare for science next week.

 By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of 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 1067: Bumping to Missoula… sound familiar?]]> Thu, 06 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1066 Navcam Stimson

With a familiar blog title, I report that in today’s plan we’re bumping towards the Missoula outcrop.  On Sol 1066 Curiosity drove ~ 25 m back toward Missoula, but we still have a little further to go.  However, the science team took advantage of our current position to collect some additional data on the Stimson unit (shown in the above Navcam image).

Today’s plan includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the targets “Dixon” and “Doney” to assess the chemistry in different parts of the Stimson unit.  We’ll also acquire a Mastcam mosaic to characterize the terrain that DAN sampled.  Then Curiosity will perform several environmental monitoring activities, including a ChemCam passive sky observation, a Mastcam tau, and a Navcam cloud movie, to understand the chemistry and opacity of the atmosphere and search for clouds.   Curiosity will then drive towards Missoula, and we’ll acquire post-drive imaging to prepare for targeted science over the weekend.  The terrain might look the same, but I’m excited by the additional science that we can accomplish here!

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of 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 1066: Happy 3rd Anniversary on Mars!]]> Wed, 05 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1064 Mastcam of Buckskin pre-sieve dump pile

Tonight marks the third anniversary of Curiosity’s landing in Gale crater.  It’s been a great three years, full of a number of important science discoveries.  Check out this video and webpage for a summary of some of the top science results so far.

To celebrate starting her 4th year on Mars, Curiosity is driving away from the Lion outcrop, and back toward the Missoula outcrop.  I feel like Curiosity has really grown up in these past couple of years, and she’s acting like a true field geologist – quickly interpreting key science data, and revisiting sites that will improve our understanding of the geologic history here.  In today’s plan, Curiosity will make a couple of final observations at Lion before driving away.  In the morning we’ll acquire ChemCam and Mastcam on the target “Moiese” to look for chemical variations across the outcrop.  Just before driving away, we’ll take one last Mastcam image of the dump pile, using all of the camera filters.  Then we’ll drive back towards Missoula, and take some Navcam images to prepare for ChemCam targeting in tomorrow’s plan. Ken Herkenhoff and I were both on duty today (as the SOWG Chair and GSTL), so it was fun to be part of this important milestone on Mars.  Keep on roving!

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of 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 1065: Last Call at Lion]]> Tue, 04 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1061 contact science at Buckskin

It’s been a great couple of weeks at the Lion outcrop, but it’s time to move on.  After a successful investigation that included observations by almost every science instrument, we’re getting ready to drive away tomorrow.  That means that today (and tomorrow before we drive) is the last call for science observations.

So we put together a full plan for Sol 1066.  In the morning we’ll acquire ChemCam on the target “McClure” to look for chemical variations across the outcrop.  We’ll also take a Mastcam image of “Calamity,” as part of a change-detection experiment.  Then we’ll acquire MAHLI and APXS on the pre-sieve dump pile, with some additional documentation images.  “Pre-sieve” refers to the sample material that didn’t make it through the sieve, in other words, the larger size fraction.  By dumping it on the ground we can see what the larger size particles look like and whether they have a composition that varies from that of the full mix of particle sizes.  After contact science on the dump pile, we’ll use MAHLI to image the belly of the rover to monitor the spacecraft’s health.  In the afternoon, we’ll acquire a large Mastcam mosaic to document the outcrop at higher resolution, and we’ll take several ChemCam RMIs to test the RMI autofocus.  Ken Herkenhoff and I were both on duty today (as the SOWG Chair and GSTL), so it was a busy day of planning here at the USGS, trying to make sure we could acquire all of the necessary observations before leaving!

By Lauren Edgar 

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of 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 1064: Dump pre-sieve sample]]> Mon, 03 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700

The activities planned for last weekend completed successfully, including sample dropoff to CheMin and analysis of the minerals present.  So the Sol 1064 plan includes dumping the portion of the drill sample that has not been sieved and Mastcam, ChemCam, MAHLI, and APXS observations of the dump pile.  ChemCam and Mastcam will also observe nearby targets "Martz" and "Mountain Home."  MAHLI will image the drill hole, tailings and CheMin inlet at night using its LEDs for illumination.  Such nighttime observations require extra power for heating, so I had to pay extra attention to the power modeling as SOWG Chair today.  Fortunately, we didn't have to delete any observations to maintain plenty of charge in the batteries, and I'm happy with the plan we will be sending to the rover this evening. 

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 1061-1063: Sample dropoff to CheMin]]> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

This morning, the MSL operations team was very happy to see that drilling into Buckskin was successful!  The weekend plan therefore has more arm activities, including transferring the sample to the scoop for inspection.  But first, the ChemCam RMI will take pictures of the new drill hole and Mastcam will image a potential location for eventually dumping the sample.  The sample will be sieved and a portion of the fine-grained material dropped into CheMin for mineralogical analysis overnight on Sols 1061-1062.  

In parallel, the APXS will analyze the potential sample dump location for comparison with future measurements of the dump pile.  During the afternoon of Sol 1062, the arm will be moved out of the way so that Mastcam and ChemCam can observe the drill hole and tailings, as well as new targets "Diamond Point" and "Summer Hill."  Later that day, SAM will perform a standard (monthly) electrical baseline test.  On Sol 1063, the Navcam and Mastcams will observe the Sun and sky, and Mastcam will acquire a stereo mosaic of the outcrop to the right of the rover.  


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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