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 884: Sample Transfer to CheMin]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Mojave2 drill holes

 

By Lauren Edgar

After successfully drilling the target “Mojave2” on Sol 882, the next step is to deliver the sample to CheMin for analysis.   We acquired some great Mastcam and MAHLI images of the drill hole and mini drill hole, and we’re looking forward to learning more about the composition of this sample.

The main activities in today’s plan are to transfer, sieve, and drop-off the sample to CheMin, and also to acquire APXS on the drill tailings.  The plan also includes a few additional frames to fill in the MAHLI self portrait.

And even though today is a Friday and we would normally be planning 3 sols to cover the weekend, the team has decided to take advantage of some Saturday operations to maximize our number of planning days.  A big thanks to those team members who volunteered to work tomorrow!  The rest of us will be traveling to Pasadena this weekend for our team meeting next week.  I’m sure there will be a lot of new data to discuss!

--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 883: A Closer Look at the Latest Drill Hole on Mars]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0700

By Lauren Edgar

On Sol 882 Curiosity completed another full drill hole on Mars.  The target was “Mojave2” and it proved to be much more stable than “Mojave” (our previous attempt at doing a mini-drill at Mojave resulted in breaking the rock apart).  This time everything went smoothly and we have a beautiful new drill hole to analyze.

The main activities in today’s plan are ChemCam, Mastcam and MAHLI observations to characterize the drill hole and tailings.  First we’ll acquire several ChemCam LIBS observations of the drill tailings to study their composition.  Then we’ll image the drill hole using all of the Mastcam camera filters.  Overnight, we’ll acquire a number of MAHLI images to characterize the drill hole and tailings.  Looking forward to learning more about the composition of this interesting target!

--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 882: Full drill of Mojave2]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ken Herkenhoff

The mini-drill activities planned for Sol 881 went well, so we are "go" to drill and acquire a new sample on Sol 882!  I helped plan the Sol 881 MAHLI images, so was particularly happy to see them this morning.  One of them was taken of the intended full-drill target--it shows tailings from the mini-drill hole, which will not interfere with more drilling.  So the Sol 882 plan starts with higher-resolution MAHLI images of the drill target, followed immediately by drilling the full hole.  Then images of the new drill hole will be taken before the rover sleeps overnight.

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 881: Mini-drilling, Take 2]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

MAHLI image of Mojave2

Well, we’re certainly hitting the ground running after our flight software upgrade! Today we received some very nice MAHLI images of the target “Mojave2“ that the rover brushed on sol 880. We also got the results of our “preloading” test, where the drill is pushed against the rock to make sure it isn’t going to shift as we drill. Mojave2 looks nice and stable, so the main activity in the 881 plan is to do a “mini-drill” in this location. Last time we tried mini-drilling at “Mojave”, we broke the rock apart, so we’re all waiting eagerly to see if Mojave2 is better behaved. Other than the mini drill and various documentation images, the main activity for sol 881 is an overnight APXS measurement of the drill hole.

I was on duty today as “Keeper of the Plan” (KOP) for the geology theme group, which means I help the geologists on the team translate their desired science into a set of activities scheduled at specific times. Usually, the plan for a sol has a “science block” where the science team can put any observations that will fit. Today was a little different: because we’re doing the mini-drill, there isn’t any room for a science block, so it was an easy day to be KOP. If the mini-drill goes well, there won’t be any science blocks in the sol 882 plan either, since we will be busy doing a full drill hole, but if the mini-drill breaks the rock again, the full drilling might be canceled. If that happens, we need to have a plan for what else to do, so that was what the geology group focused on today. This way, we will make the most of sol 882 even if we can’t drill!

--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 880: Resuming science planning]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ken Herkenhoff

In spite of missing a command uplink due to a temporary outage at one of the Deep Space Network sites early last week, the flight software transition went well and the MSL operations team is back to planning science activities!  Lots of good observations were proposed, so many that some ChemCam and Mastcam activities had to be deleted from the Sol 880 plan to ensure that the rover batteries maintain enough charge to allow the drill-related activities planned for Sol 881.  But Mastcam images of areas previously disturbed by the rover are planned, to look for changes caused by winds.  The focus of the Sol 880 plan is to brush a potential drill target dubbed "Mojave2" and image it with MAHLI.  The drill assembly will then be pushed against Mojave2 to determine whether the rock is thick enough to drill.  After sunset, MAHLI will use its LEDs to take higher-resolution pictures of the brush spot and the chunks of rock thrown out of the Mojave mini-drill hole.  Previous MAHLI images show that images taken at night often provide useful complementary information when compared with daytime images of the same target.  Finally, the APXS will be placed on the brushed spot for overnight integration. 

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 876: Exciting New Software]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0700 By Lauren Edgar

The flight software transition is going well, and Curiosity is doing a test run of the new version.  Both the prime and backup rover computers are on track to commit to the upgrade by this weekend.  However, this means that it’s a pretty quiet week in terms of science operations.  In the meantime, the team is focused on all of the new MAHLI images that we’ve received of the latest drill hole and the surrounding rocks that were broken during drilling.

Speaking of new software, we’re looking forward to testing out the new OnSight software developed by a JPL team in collaboration with Microsoft.  The software uses holographic computing, and will allow scientists to study Curiosity’s worksite from a first-person view.  It sounds like this will provide a great new perspective and will be very useful for future planning! For more information on OnSight, check out the recent press release

--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[Sols 873-879: Software Transition]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ken Herkenhoff

There won't be any MSL science planned this week because the rover's software is being upgraded.  I was scheduled as SOWG Chair today and tomorrow in case the software transition had to be aborted, but so far it is going well so the science operations personnel have been released.  While I'm a bit disappointed that we won't be planning new scientific observations and related activities, I'm glad that the software transition is going well. 

 

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 871-872: A Software Upgrade is Available. Install Now?]]> Fri, 16 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

MAHLI view of the "chunk" of rock dislodged by the mini-drill activity

Today’s plan for sols 871 and 872 is our last chance to get some science done before we begin a week of no activity while the engineering team upgrades the rover software. The plan is to do two ChemCam “rasters” on targets “Funk Valley” and “Rainbow Basin”. Each raster will analyze three closely-spaced spots on the target. Funk Valley is our latest candidate mini-drill target (our last mini-drill ended up breaking the rock, so we’re trying again), and Rainbow Basin is a rock with some interesting erosion-resistant knobs. Mastcam will take supporting images of these targets and then we will be spending a pretty big chunk of time doing some data management for Mastcam, transferring less-compressed versions of some images from Mastcam’s internal memory over to the rover prior to the flight software update. The last activity on sol 871 will be an overnight analysis of the chunk of rock that our first mini-drill dislodged, using APXS. This is a rare chance to do APXS on a target with a fresh, non-dusty surface!

On sol 872, ChemCam will do some passive observations of the sky to measure how much oxygen, carbon dioxide, and dust is in the atmosphere and Navcam will do some routine atmospheric measurements. There are also a bunch of Mastcam images of the same locations at different times of the day. These are part of a photometry experiment, which is trying to understand how the sun scatters off of the martian surface at different angles. There are also a handful of Mastcam images as part of a change monitoring campaign. The long break for the software update will allow us to look at the same locations in a couple weeks and see if any sand has been moved by the wind.

If all goes according to plan, there won’t be a lot of rover activity over the next week, but the team will be busy poring over the latest MAHLI images of our drilling area and the chunks that were dislodged during our first mini-drill!

--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 870 Update: Keeping MAHLI Safe]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ken Herkenhoff

This morning the MSL operations team realized that the results of the MAHLI activities planned for Sol 870 will not be received until Saturday.  Therefore, if there is a problem on Sol 870 that halts the sequence while the MAHLI dust cover is open, the cover would remain open through the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.  To eliminate the risk of such a situation and possible effects on the software upgrade planned for next week, the team decided not to send the Sol 870 command sequences to the rover.  Unfortunately, this means that the brushing and drill target investigations planned yesterday will not occur, but they can be done after the software has been upgraded. The Sol 869 activities planned yesterday will not be affected by this change, and should be completed today.

Meanwhile, many of the MAHLI self portrait images acquired on Sol 868 have been received.  When all of them have been returned to Earth, they will be assembled into the latest rover "selfie."

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 869-870: Broken rock]]> Wed, 14 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ken Herkenhoff

The "mini-drill" test on the Mojave rock target completed successfully, but MAHLI images taken after the test showed that the rotary-percussive drilling fractured the rock.  This was not expected, so the tactical team had to quickly change the Sol 869-870 plan.  While we were hoping to drill a deeper hole and acquire a sample of the drill cuttings before the upgrade of the software onboard the rover next week, the rock fragments dislodged by the mini-drill activity provided a rare opportunity to examine freshly-broken surfaces.  Field geologists usually carry rock hammers so that they can break rocks and examine the fresh surfaces.  On Mars, the drill has served as MSL's rock hammer!  So the Sol 869 plan includes ChemCam measurements of the fresh chunk of rock and the bottom of the mini-drill hole, followed by MAHLI close-up images of the dislodged rocks, both during the day and at night (illuminated by the LEDs).  On Sol 870, the brush will be used to clean off another potential mini-drill target, dubbed "Funk Valley."  MAHLI images of this new target will be taken before and after the brushing, then the drill will be "preloaded" (pushed down) against Funk Valley and a potential full drill target to determine whether the rock is strong enough to safely drill.  Finally, MAHLI images will be acquired to see the results of the preload tests and the APXS will be placed on the brushed spot for an overnight integration. 

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 867-868: Mini-Drill at Mojave]]> Mon, 12 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Crystals in Mojave

 

By Lauren Edgar

Over the weekend, Curiosity did a short drive to get into position to drill at “Mojave.”  The previously acquired MAHLI images of this target show some really interesting crystals, and we’re excited to use CheMin to figure out what minerals are present.

The main event in today’s two-sol plan is to do a mini-drill at Mojave.  Before we do a full drill deep enough to collect rock powder, we do a mini-drill in preparation.  We’ll also collect a number of MAHLI images before and after the mini-drill to characterize the drilling location.  The plan also includes some DAN observations to characterize the subsurface near this site.  Then we’ll acquire APXS of the mini-drill hole to assess the composition of the freshly exposed material.

On the second sol we will move the arm out of the way to image the hole with Mastcam, and then Curiosity will acquire a self-portrait.  We like to take these “selfies” at each of the drill hole locations to document the site, and it’s also a good way to check up on the state of the rover.  

Looking forward to more drilling on Mars!

--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 864-866: Hello Again, Pink Cliffs!]]> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0700 MAHLI image of the Mojave target near Pink Cliffs that will be drilled next week.

by Ryan Anderson

The drive toward “Pink Cliffs” went according to plan, so in the Sol 864 plan we will be doing a very short drive (called a “bump”) toward our drilling target: “Mojave” (shown above). Before the drive, ChemCam will analyze 5 locations in a line across a possible mineral vein in the rock, at a target called “Harrisburg”. This type of observation, called a “raster”, was quite common before ChemCam’s focus problems, but this will be the first time doing a 5-point raster since the focusing laser stopped working. ChemCam is still collecting images and spectra at multiple focus positions per point, to make sure we get good data.

After Harrisburg, ChemCam will also study a broken rock target called “Beers”, where it will take spectra and several stacks of images at different focus positions. This will provide good data for testing the focus, plus interesting science data from the freshly exposed portion of the broken rock. Mastcam will provide supporting images for both ChemCam observations, plus an image of a location where the rover ran over a small sand ripple, at a target called “Doughnut”. (I promise, Homer Simpson did not name our targets today!) Navcam will also do a dust devil search.

After that, the rover will drive about 10 meters to get into position for drilling, and we will take Mastcam and Navcam images of the surroundings. On Sol 865, our main activity is a measurement of methane in the atmosphere by SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars – the onboard chemistry lab).

And then on Sol 866, we have some routine atmospheric observations by ChemCam, Mastcam, and Navcam.

--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.]]>
<![CDATA[Sols 862-863: Goodbye Whale Rock!]]> Wed, 07 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Color image of Whale Rock

by Ryan Anderson

It’s time to hit the road again! In the Sol 862-863 plan, we are wrapping things up at “Whale Rock” and then driving about 85 m toward “Pink Cliffs”, where we hope to drill sometime soon. On Sol 862, Mastcam will take a few parting shots of Whale Rock and “Western Cliffs” before we drive away. After driving, we will do our standard post-drive imaging with Navcam and Mastcam to get a good look at our surroundings.

On Sol 863, Mastcam will look at the sun to measure how much dust is in the atmosphere (this measurement is called a “tau” because that’s the symbol used in the equation that shows how much the sun’s light is attenuated). Navcam will watch for clouds above Mt. Sharp, and ChemCam will make a passive sky observation. ChemCam will also make some measurements of the on-board calibration targets.

--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.]]>
<![CDATA[Sols 860-861: Happy New (Earth) Year!]]> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Curiosity's arm analyzing the target "Sierra Nevada"

by Ryan Anderson

Happy New (Earth) Year!  

After the long holiday plans, the Curiosity team is back to planning two days at a time. The main priority for the sol 860 plan is to use MAHLI to take close-up color images of the targets “Sierra Nevada”, “Santa Ana,” and “Tecoya”. These targets were analyzed by APXS over the holidays, so it’s important to get good images to go with the chemistry.

For sol 861, ChemCam will analyze the Tecoya target, and a target called “Last Chance Canyon”. ChemCam will also take a series of images of “Newberry” to test focusing at long range. Mastcam will take color images of Newberry and Last Chance Canyon to support the ChemCam observations. The rest of Sol 861 will be Mastcam images of targets “Telescope Peak,” “Fairview Valley,” and “Gem Hill” as part of a campaign to watch for any changes in the images. Mastcam will also make a routine “clast survey” observation, where it looks at a patch of ground near the rover to study the sizes of the pebbles and rocks (collectively called “clasts”). Clast surveys are done periodically to get an idea of how the clasts change throughout the traverse.

--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.]]>
<![CDATA[Sols 853-859: Christmas on Mars]]> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Brushed surface at Santa Ana

By Lauren Edgar


On December 19th, the MSL tactical team planned 10 sols (!) on Mars, so that everyone could take a nice break over the holidays.  That means that today we are assessing all of those sols of data, and checking out all of the “presents” that Curiosity acquired for us!   At the start of the break, Curiosity carried out some contact science on the target “Santa Ana,” which is at the base of the Whale Rock outcrop at Pahrump Hills.  Curiosity used the Dust Removal Tool (DRT) to expose a clean surface, and we acquired a nice Mastcam image of that surface.  This Navcam image shows the arm outstretched over “Santa Ana”, as well as some of the interesting textures in the rocks surrounding it (“Sierra Nevada” is the block to the right of the arm, and “Tecoya” is the long skinny block to the lower right).

Today we are planning 3 sols of targeted science, and 4 sols of REMS and associated background activities to carry us through the New Year’s holiday.  The first sol of this plan includes several ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the targets “Santa Ana,” “Peach Springs” and “Lane Mountain” to characterize their texture and composition.  The plan also includes a Navcam observation to monitor the atmosphere above Mt. Sharp.  Then Curiosity will brush the target “Tecoya” to remove the dust, and use the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) to determine its bulk chemical composition.  The second sol involves a number of environmental monitoring observations.  Curiosity will use the Navcam, Mastcam, and ChemCam passive to assess the composition of the atmosphere and search for dust devils.   We will also use Navcam to acquire a sunrise movie, as well as to look for clouds and assess the wind direction near the zenith (the point in the sky directly above the rover).  On the same sol we will move the APXS to the target “Sierra Nevada” to see how its composition compares to “Tecoya.”  The third sol will be fairly light, and consists of a Mastcam observation of the fresh surface at “Tecoya” using all of the camera filters.  The remaining sols (856-859) will consist of standard environmental monitoring, until we resume our regular planning schedule for Sol 860.

Wishing Curiosity and the MSL team a happy and healthy start to the New Year!

--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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