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 1094: Turning in to Bridger Basin]]> Thu, 03 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1093 Navcam

The drive on Sol 1093 went well, and Curiosity drove ~15 m towards Bridger Basin.  In the Sol 1094 plan, we’ll drive for ~30 m to round the turn into the basin, as we continue making our way through the Stimson unit.  These rocks exhibit a lot of beautiful cross-bedding, as seen in the Sol 1093 Navcams.

Today’s plan consists of ChemCam and Mastcam observations on the targets “Whitewater” and “Whitefish,” two targets that are within a bright, bleached area near a fracture.  After a short drive, we’ll take standard post-drive imaging to help with targeting in tomorrow’s plan.  The plan also includes a ChemCam RMI autofocus test to assess temperature effects.  Looking ahead, tomorrow will be a busy 4-sol plan to prepare for the long weekend!

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[USGS Scientist Chris Edwards, Solving the Mysteries of Mars’ Atmosphere]]> Thu, 03 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0700 USGS scientist, Chris Edwards, is working to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the Martian atmosphere. From the USGS press release:

The modern Martian atmosphere is too thin for liquid water to persist on the surface. A denser atmosphere on ancient Mars could have kept water from immediately evaporating. It could also have allowed parts of the planet to be warm enough to keep liquid water from freezing. But if the atmosphere was once thicker, what happened to it? The new detective work makes one suspected route for atmospheric loss look less likely. Read more!

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<![CDATA[Sol 1093: Leaving the Williams area]]> Wed, 02 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1092 Front Hazcam Williams area

After successful contact science on the Stimson unit in the Williams area, it’s time to get back on the road.  In today’s plan we’ll finish up a few activities at the Williams area, and then continue on our drive towards Bridger Basin and eventually the Bagnold Dunes.

Today’s plan consists of ChemCam and Mastcam observations on the targets “Interlake,” “Ledger,” and “Mackay Dome.”  Then we’ll image the “Ledger” target using all of the Mastcam camera filters, and take another Mastcam clast survey image to look for any changes in the time that we’ve been here.  We’ll also use Mastcam to look at the sun to measure the atmospheric opacity.  Then we’ll take a short drive and acquire post-drive imaging to help with targeting in tomorrow’s plan.  It’s exciting to be driving again, and I’m sure we’ll encounter some beautiful views as we continue to drive through this interesting terrain.

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 1092: Stimson Contact Science]]> Tue, 01 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1091 Navcam contact science

Curiosity is currently investigating an outcrop of the Stimson unit.  On Sol 1091, Curiosity acquired some low-resolution MAHLI images of the targets “Pentagon,” “Lebo,” “Ivanhoe,” and “Ledger” in order to plan more detailed imaging of those targets today.

The Sol 1092 plan includes targeted remote sensing followed by more contact science.  In the midday science block, we’ll acquire ChemCam and Mastcam on the targets “Rabbit Hills” and “Horseshoe Hills” to investigate some of the alteration features seen here.   We’ll also acquire some large Mastcam mosaics of the “Williams” area to investigate the sedimentary structures.  The plan also includes a ChemCam RMI autofocus test, and a Navcam movie to monitor the atmosphere.  In the afternoon, we’ll acquire closer MAHLI imaging on “Lebo,” “Ivanhoe,” and “Ledger,” using the information we gained from the Sol 1091 MAHLI finder frames.  Since "Ledger” is a nice flat ledge, it’s also a good target for the DRT, so we can brush away the dust to expose a fresh surface.  Then we’ll place the APXS on “Ledger” for an overnight integration.  We’re in really early slide sols this week (meaning planning starts at 6am), but that hasn’t stopped the team from putting together some very full plans!

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 1091: Lots of MAHLI targets]]> Mon, 31 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700

Planning is no longer restricted, but we had to start at 6:00 PDT this morning to give the operations team enough time to uplink commands by the time the rover expects them.  Driving to work before sunrise reminded me of the sometimes odd times we had to wake up during the first 90 sols of the mission, when the entire operations team was on "Mars time."

The team is very interested in the outcrop in front of the rover, so I had a very busy day as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead today, even though we are planning just one sol.  We planned in advance for MAHLI nighttime imaging of CheMin's inlet and MAHLI's calibration target (using white and UV LEDs), so those activities were ready to go this morning.  But we had to prioritize and plan the details of observations of other contact science targets.  Because the Sol 1089 MAHLI images and APXS placement were not perfectly centered on the Buckskin dump pile, our top priority is to repeat those observations with updated positioning.  We planned MAHLI images of a target dubbed "Devon," which will also be measured by APXS.  Many of the targets of interest are difficult to reach with the arm, so the rover planners requested relatively low-resolution MAHLI images of them to support planning of more contact science on Sol 1092.  These targets were named "Pentagon," "Lebo," "Ivanhoe," and "Ledger," with Ledger being imaged in stereo by Mastcam because it is a candidate for brushing with the DRT.  Finally, the APXS will be placed on the dump pile for overnight integration.

We had to put more thought than usual into prioritizing various data for downlink, as we expect only 38 Mbits of data before Sol 1092 planning begins tomorrow morning.  This situation forced us to compress some of the MAHLI images more than usual, and to create new command sequences.  But if all goes well, we will receive enough data tomorrow morning to plan contact science on multiple targets.

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 1089-1090: Stimson is Stunning]]> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1085 Mastcam Stimson

Curiosity is currently making her way through some beautiful exposures of the Stimson unit.  The 6 m drive on Sol 1087 went well, and Curiosity is in a good position for possible contact science early next week.

Today we’re planning 2-sols for the weekend (Sunday is a “soliday” to allow Earth and Mars schedules to sync back up).  One of the main activities on Sol 1089 is dropping off part of the Buckskin drill sample to SAM.  Then we’ll dump the Buckskin post-sieve sample, and analyze it with APXS.  The plan also includes Mastcam and MAHLI imaging to document the dump pile.  Sol 1090 consists of several ChemCam observations of the targets “Fox Hills,” “OBriens Creek,” and “Bearpaw” to investigate the bedrock and local alteration features.  We’ll also acquire a large Mastcam mosaic to document the stratigraphy, and a Navcam deck pan for dust monitoring.  This region has some particularly stunning views, so I’m looking forward to seeing the new mosaics!

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[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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