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 1477-1479: Rocky Road]]> Fri, 30 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Navcam view of the rough terrain ahead

Everything went well in our previous plan and we are making slow but steady progress over rough terrain toward our next drill location. We should get there by next weekend!

Today’s plan starts off with a bunch of remote sensing on Sol 1477. Navcam has an atmospheric observation, followed by ChemCam analysis of the targets “Chadibe”, “Bobonong”, and “Dukwi”. Mastcam will document those targets once ChemCam is done with them, as well as the ChemCam AEGIS target from yesterday. Mastcam also has a small mosaic of the target “Etsha” to study its fine-scale layers, and a larger mosaic to extend the drive-direction pan from Sol 1475. The Etsha mosaic will be repeated again later in the day. In the evening, APXS will analyze the chemistry of the target “Caugula” and “Catumbela” will be analyzed overnight. We will brush the dust off of Catumbela before the overnight analysis, and MAHLI will take images of the targets to support APXS.

On Sol 1478, ChemCam has observations of Catumbela and “Francistown,” with Mastcam support. Later in the day, ChemCam will do an automatically targeted AEGIS observation and MARDI. Sol 1479 will be full of routine engineering activities, so we didn’t plan any science blocks.

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 1475-1476: Finishing up on Jwaneng]]> Wed, 28 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700
We're planning two sols, so it's been busier for me today as SOWG Chair.  The science team had a lot of good ideas for new observations, so it was a challenge to fit them all into the plan, but in the end all went well.  On Sol 1475, the arm will be moved out of the way to allow ChemCam and Mastcam multispectral observations of the Jwaneng brush spot and an outcrop target named "Munhango."  The Right Mastcam will also acquire mosaics of targets dubbed "Luremo," "Nata," and "Maun" before the rover drives away.  In addition to the usual post-drive imaging, ChemCam will autonomously acquire chemical data on a target selected by the AEGIS software.  CheMin will analyze the latest drill sample overnight, and while the new data are being read out the next morning, Mastcam will measure the dust in the atmosphere, Navcam will search for clouds, and ChemCam will acquire passive spectra of the sky.  These atmospheric observations will be repeated at noon to look for short-term changes.  Finally, the rover will get some sleep in preparation for what will likely be a busy weekend.

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[Sol 1474: Murray cross-bedding]]> Tue, 27 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700
The 16-meter drive on Sol 1473 completed perfectly, placing the rover in position for contact science on an outcrop of cross-bedded Murray bedrock.  The primary goal for Sol 1474 is to characterize the cross-bedding and measure grain sizes using MAHLI, and we were able to squeeze in a lot of other good observations.  Before the arm is deployed, ChemCam will measure the chemical composition of the "Kopong" bedrock target, Mastcam will acquire mosaics of the Kopong outcrop and a couple of blocks behind it, and Navcam will search for clouds.  The arm activities start with a full suite of MAHLI images of Kopong and a MAHLI mosaic of the left side of the outcrop, dubbed "Utuseb."  Then the DRT will be used to brush off the "Jwaneng" target, with MAHLI images taken before and after the brushing.  The APXS will be placed 0.5 centimeter from the center of the brushed spot for a short evening integration, then moved to the center of the brushed spot for an overnight integration.  Finding good contact science targets that could be safely brushed and imaged was a challenge, but the tactical team did a great job, making it an easy day for me as SOWG Chair.

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[Sol 1473: In search of a contact science location]]> Mon, 26 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1471 Navcam

Over the weekend Curiosity drove 43 m to the south, in search of a good place for contact science.  Unfortunately, our present location is in a small valley, and we don’t have many good rock targets in the workspace.  After evaluating the Mastcam drive direction imaging, we decided to drive further to the southwest. This should put us in front of a small exposure of cross-bedding for contact science in tomorrow’s plan.

I was GSTL today, and after we decided to keep driving, the planning day was pretty straightforward.  We’re in late slide sols, so we got a late start to allow time for more data to come down.  The plan includes several ChemCam observations to characterize the composition of the local bedrock and soil.  We also planned a number of Mastcam mosaics to document some potentially coarser-grained rocks, sedimentary structures in the rocks in our workspace, and a linear feature that we can compare with observations from orbit.  Then we’ll drive toward our intended contact science target, and take post-drive imaging to prepare for the activities tomorrow.  As our SOWG Chair pointed out, today marks the first day of Curiosity’s second Extended Mission, so it’s exciting to think about what we’ll accomplish in this next chapter!

By Lauren Edgar

--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[Sol 1470-1472: Change of Plans]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700

Our drive went nicely and we are already about halfway to our next drill site! Our original plan to head toward an outcrop called “Karasburg” had to be changed because it turned out to be covered in sand and not very steep, making it a less-desirable science target. So instead we are heading toward a location where (we hope) the stratigraphy will be better-exposed.

For this weekend’s plan, we start out on sol 1470 with a Navcam dust devil search and atmospheric observation, plus ChemCam of the targets “Chiagne”, “Chibemba”, and “Chibanda”. Mastcam will document those three targets, as well as the location of the automated ChemCam observation that was collected after yesterday’s drive. Mastcam also has three mosaics: a 6x3 of the Karasburg outcrop, a 4x1 of a location called “Longojo”, and a 5x2 extension of the drive direction mosaic.

On Sol 1471, we will do a wheel checkup with MAHLI and then drive, followed by the usual post-drive imaging. On Sol 1472 we have another AEGIS automated ChemCam observation, a couple of Mastcam atmospheric observations, and ChemCam calibration targets.

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 1469: Leaving Murray Buttes]]> Thu, 22 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700
MSL drove over 87 meters on Sol 1468, toward an outcrop named "Karasburg."  The Sol 1469 plan includes another drive toward Karasburg, after ChemCam and Mastcam sample a local bedrock target named "Cacolo" and a patch of brighter material dubbed "Malembo."  Mastcam will also acquire mosaics of the Karasburg area both before and after the drive.  Following the typical post-drive activities, AEGIS will again be used to autonomously select a ChemCam target and acquire chemical and imaging data.  While the Murray Buttes were spectacular and interesting, it's good to be back on the road again, as there is much more of Mt. Sharp to explore!

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 1467-1468: Finishing up at Quela]]> Tue, 20 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700

The activities planned for Sol 1466 are going well so far--the only problem is that the ChemCam observation of the Quela drill hole wall is slightly out of focus.  So we'll try again on Sol 1467 with slightly modified ChemCam command parameters.  We're planning two sols today, and our top priority is to finish up our investigation of the Quela drill hole and tailings before driving away.  There are a lot of measurements we'd like to make here, so it was a rather busy day for me as SOWG Chair.  After retracting and stowing the arm to allow remote sensing observations of the Quela area, the Right Mastcam will image the imprint of the APXS contact sensor in the drill tailings, to determine exactly where the APXS was placed.  Mastcam will also image the unsieved sample dump pile through all filters and measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere (a "Mastcam tau") by imaging the Sun.  Then ChemCam will go to work, acquiring passive spectra of the dump pile and active LIBS observations of the drill hole/tailings, a vein target named "Sumbe," and Goantagab again to look for changes.  The Right Mastcam will then acquire a 5x8 mosaic of the right side of the butte in front of the rover and take pictures of the ChemCam targets.  Another Mastcam tau is scheduled late in the afternoon, followed by CheMin and SAM engineering activities.  Mastcam will measure dust in the atmosphere again on the morning of Sol 1468, and Navcam will search for clouds overhead.  A ~90-meter drive is planned during the middle of the day, followed by the usual post-drive imaging to set us up for the next plan. 

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[Sol 1466: A new drill hole]]> Mon, 19 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700

The second attempt to drill into Quela was successful, but there was a timing issue during sample manipulation in CHIMRA that resulted in premature halting of the Sol 1465 sequence.  So on Sol 1466 we'll pick up where MSL stopped and sieve the new sample, dump the unsieved fraction, and drop some of the sieved sample into CheMin.  But first, ChemCam will acquire passive spectra of the Quela drill tailings and use its laser to measure the chemistry of the wall of the new drill hole and of bedrock targets "Camaxilo" and "Okakarara."  Right Mastcam images of these targets are also planned.  After sunset, MAHLI will use its LEDs to take images of the drill hole from various angles and of the CheMin inlet to confirm that the sample was successfully delivered.  Finally, the APXS will be placed over the drill tailings for an overnight integration. 

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 1463-1465: Trying Again]]> Fri, 16 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700

After doing the drill diagnostics, the team has decided to try drilling at Quela again over the weekend. Sol 1463 will start with ChemCam of some pebbles called “Omusati” and some veins called “Didimbo”. Mastcam will document both targets, and then do a tau measurement to determine how much dust is in the atmosphere. After that, the rover will use MAHLI to take a selfie at our current scenic location. In the afternoon on Sol 1463, Navcam will take some images to help with targeting, and Mastcam and Navcam will continue the photometry experiment from yesterday’s plan. Mastcam also has a change detection observation and Navcam will watch for clouds overhead. We will wrap up the busy day with MAHLI of the pebbles at “Ombomboli”.

Sol 1464 will be devoted to drilling and related imaging. Sol 1465 ChemCam has some passive calibration target measurements, plus an RMI of the drill hole. Mastcam will also take a look at the drill hole, using the full suite of multispectral filters.

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 1462: Drill Troubleshooting and Remote Sensing]]> Fri, 16 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700

Unfortunately the Sol 1461 drilling activities did not complete as expected, so the Sol 1462 plan was focused on trying to understand the problem while also doing some remote sensing. The plan starts off with Mastcam multispectral observations of the target “Ekunha” on the nearby butte. ChemCam will analyze the targets “Cuasa” and “Cuimba”, and then Mastcam will document those targets and take an 8x3 mosaic of the butte, along with a change detection observation at “Goantagab”.

In the afternoon, Mastcam has a mosaic of the target “Karasburg” to help with planning contact science, and then in the morning of Sol 1463 Mastcam has another mosaic of the nearby butte, under different lighting, and Navcam has at atmospheric measurement. Throughout the whole plan, there are also a number of joint Navcam and Mastcam photometry observations of the same location at different times of day to help understand how sunlight scatters off the surface.

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 1461: Time to drill]]> Wed, 14 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1460 Hazcam Quela

It’s always an exciting day on Mars when you prepare to drill another sample – an engineering feat that we’ve become so accustomed to that I sometimes forget how impressive this really is!  Today’s plan just looks like a “typical” drill sol.  First we’ll image the intended drill target with MAHLI, then we’ll do a full drill of the target “Quela”, followed by more documentation imaging with MAHLI.  We’ll also acquire a ChemCam RMI image of the drill hole to help with upcoming targeting of the hole.  Then the sample will be transferred to the scoop for inspection.  Drilling is a pretty power-hungry activity, so there are no additional science observations in this plan, but we’re hoping to have more time for science tomorrow.  In the meantime, we have plenty of new beautiful images to analyze.

Fingers crossed for another successful drill hole on Mars!

By Lauren Edgar 

--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[Sol 1460: Preparing to drill]]> Tue, 13 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1459 RMI

Sol 1459 MAHLI wheel imaging

Yesterday was sol 2 of the drill campaign at “Quela” and we did a lot of great remote sensing, contact science and wheel imaging (see the above RMI image showing fine lamination in some pebbles, and the MAHLI image of the wheels to monitor their health).  Today’s plan includes a science block and cross-contamination experiment to prepare for the drill sample.  Science activities include a Mastcam multispectral observation of a block of Stimson sandstone, ChemCam RMI images of the layering in the butte, and ChemCam LIBS to assess the composition of the pebbles.  If all goes well we should be ready to go for the full drill hole tomorrow!

By Lauren Edgar

--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[Sol 1459: Characterizing the Marimba dump pile]]> Mon, 12 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1457 Mastcam workspace

Over the weekend, Curiosity completed analyses of the “Marimba” drill sample (our previous drill target), and dumped the post-sieve sample. Today’s plan is focused on MAHLI and APXS of the dump pile, and MAHLI imaging of the CheMin inlet to prepare for drill activities at our current location at “Quela.”  The plan also includes a number of remote sensing observations.  We’ll start with several atmospheric monitoring activities, including a Navcam movie and Mastcam tau.  Then we’ll acquire a Mastcam multispectral observation on the “Quela” DRT spot.  After two ChemCam passive observations of the “Marimba” dump pile and “Quela” DRT spot, we’ll acquire ChemCam LIBS on the targets “Eenhana” and “Ombomboli” to characterize the Murray bedrock and pebbles.  Then we’ll take several Mastcam mosaics to document the color, texture, grain size, and sedimentary structures in the nearby rocks. 

By Lauren Edgar

--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 1456-1458: Settling in at Quela]]> Fri, 09 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Hazcam view of Quela

We had a successful drive yesterday, and Curiosity is now parked at our next drill site, called “Quela”, right at the base of one of the Murray Buttes. The Sol 1456 plan starts with a Mastcam atmospheric observation, followed by ChemCam and Mastcam of “Quela” and a Mastcam mosaic of the workspace. After that, samples of “Marimba” will be dropped off in SAM for analysis.

On Sol 1457 Mastcam has another tau, and we will dump out the remaining Marimba sample and take some pictures of it. After that Curiosity will brush the dust off of Quela, with MAHLI images before and after, and APXS will do an overnight analysis.

In the morning on Sol 1458, Navcam, Mastcam, and ChemCam have a series of atmospheric observations. These will be followed by Mastcam multispectral observations of the Marimba dump pile, and another ChemCam passive sky and Mastcam tau. ChemCam will also analyze a block of Stimson material called “Uutapi”. Mastcam will document Uutapi and take a mosaic of some other blocks of rock that have fallen off the butte, collectively called “Cuimba”.

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 1455: Driving to Quela]]> Thu, 08 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1454 Navcam Quela


After another successful drive of ~40 m, Curiosity is aiming to approach the south side of a butte for our next potential drill site.  The area is known as “Quela,” and is seen in the above Navcam image as the bright outcrop at the base of the butte.

Today’s plan includes a short science block, a drive, and post-drive imaging.  The morning science block includes several Mastcam mosaics to assess the local stratigraphy, laminations in the Murray formation, and to document the butte and proposed drill site.  We’ll also acquire a ChemCam observation of the bedrock at the target “Humpata,” and a Mastcam tau to assess atmospheric opacity.  In addition to geology observations, the team has increased the frequency of meteorological measurements with REMS and imaging in response to observations from other spacecraft at Mars of the potential start of a major dust storm.  The drive in this plan may put us in position at the next drill site, so our post-drive imaging will help prepare us for that scenario.  We’ll also squeeze in another autonomously selected ChemCam target in the afternoon.  It’s exciting to think about drilling again already!

By Lauren Edgar

--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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