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 1055-1056: Closing in on High-Silica Targets]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700 The "Lion" area shown here has interesting high-silica rocks

The main priority in today’s plan is to nudge the rover a bit closer to the target “Buckskin”, which is in the area where we have discovered rocks high in silica and hydrogen. But before we do that, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe the targets “Marent”, “Pilcher”, and “Twinkle”, all of which may also have high silica. Navcam will also search for dust devils and do some atmospheric monitoring. On sol 1056, the rover will execute a short ~70 cm drive, followed by standard post-drive imaging to prepare for contact science on some of these interesting rocks next week.

While the Curiosity team was putting together this weekend plan, we were also keeping an eye on the amazing images of Pluto coming down from New Horizons! The solar system is a weird and wonderful place!

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 1051-1054: Approaching "Lion"]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700

After driving just over 20 meters, the rover stopped 4.4 meters short of the Sol 1049 drive goal because the vehicle pitch exceeded the 15-degree limit set by the rover drivers.  So another 6.4-meter drive toward the bright outcrop of interest, dubbed "Lion," was planned for Sol 1051.  That  drive completed successfully, providing a good view of the outcrop.  ChemCam and Mastcam observed the sand ripple "Agency" and bedrock target "Mullan" before the Sol 1051 drive.  Now that the Lion outcrop is within LIBS range, ChemCam and Mastcam observations of it are planned for Sol 1053, specifically targets named "Sorrel Springs" and "Buckskin."  A nearby rock called "Hewolf" will also be observed before the rover drives closer to the Lion outcrop.  Hopefully the rover will be in position for contact science on the outcrop this weekend.  The Sol 1054 plan is much less complex, with a Navcam search for clouds above the rover and ChemCam calibration activities.  The vehicle should be recharged and ready for a busy weekend 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[Sols 1048-1050: Test drill and drive]]> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

The Sol 1046 wheel imaging completed nominally, and the rover is a little over 1 meter from its previous location.  So the outcrop to the right of the vehicle is still close enough for ChemCam LIBS measurements, and I helped select new targets again today.  The Sol 1048 plan includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations of "Pinto," "Palomino," and "Burnt Point" plus a Navcam search for clouds toward the north.  Then the arm will be deployed for drill testing and CHIMRA maintenance activities in preparation for the next drill activity.  We are interested in sampling the bright rocks east of the rover, but the Elk and Lamoose targets are not suitable for drilling, so on Sol 1049 we plan to drive toward a nearby bright outcrop of what looks like the same material.  We're hoping that we will be able to sample that material with the drill.  Early on the morning of Sol 1050, Mastcam, Navcam, and ChemCam will observe the Sun and sky to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, search for clouds, and look for changes in atmospheric chemistry.  Another full weekend 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[Sols 1046-1047: Wheel imaging]]> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

The 8.5-meter Sol 1044 drive completed as planned, leaving the rover in a relatively flat and smooth area that is suitable for imaging of the wheels.  Wheel imaging is done periodically to assess wear, and it's time to acquire new data, so the Sol 1046 includes 5 sets of MAHLI, Mastcam, and MARDI images separated by short rover bumps to allow the entire surfaces of the wheels to be viewed. 

Today I helped pick targets on a nearby outcrop for ChemCam observations.  The team selected a target dubbed "Mustang" near the left side of this image for a 10-spot LIBS raster (plus a Right Mastcam color image), to be acquired before the wheel imaging on Sol 1046.  After the wheel imaging is complete, the usual post-drive images will be acquired, along with additional Navcam stereo images of the outcrop and a Mastcam observation of the Sun. 

On Sol 1047, Mastcam will acquire a mosaic of the outcrop to the right of the rover, and ChemCam will make some calibration measurements.  The Left Navcam will then search for dust devils and, during evening twilight, MARDI will take an image of the ground near the left front wheel. 

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 1044-1045: Finishing the Drive]]> Mon, 13 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700

The drive over the weekend stopped a bit early (~17 meters instead of the intended ~25 meters) because the software that the rover uses to monitor its drive progress was being extra cautious. The rover is fine, and in the sol 1044 plan we will keep driving.

Before the drive, ChemCam has observations of targets of varying textures named “Edith”, “Sheffer”, and “Finley”. Mastcam will take some documentation images of the same targets, along with a stereo mosaic of some interesting layered rocks and a complementary 4x3 mosaic of the nearby “Apikuni Mountain” area.

After the drive, we will take routine post-drive images, and then on sol 1045 ChemCam has some calibration measurements and Navcam has some cloud monitoring observations. On both sols, Mastcam will also continue its sun-spot monitoring campaign, and REMS, RAD, and DAN will do their routine measurements.

Meanwhile, many of us on the rover team are eagerly waiting along with the rest of the world to see the results of the historic New Horizons Pluto flyby that is happening right now. The pictures that New Horizons has sent back already are weird and fascinating, and everyone is looking forward to seeing more!

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 1041-1043: Busy weekend planned]]> Fri, 10 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700
The rover bumped back 33 cm on Sol 1039, placing all 6 wheels on firm ground and allowing contact science on the bright rocks near the top of the slope in front of the vehicle.  So the weekend plan is a full one, including both contact science and a drive back toward the southwest.  First, on Sol 1041, ChemCam will passively (no laser) acquire spectra of the sky and a rock dubbed "Monarch" before firing its laser at "Frog" and "Mosquito."  Mastcam will then take pictures of these rock targets as well as "Elk" and "Lamoose."  Later that afternoon, the arm will be deployed to take MAHLI images of Lamoose, Mosquito, and the REMS UV sensor, then place the APXS on Lamoose for an overnight integration.  The drive, with DAN measurements along the way, is planned for Sol 1042.  In addition to the usual post-drive imaging, Mastcam will again look for spots on the "back" side of the Sun.  Overnight, SAM will complete a calibration activity.  On Sol 1043, ChemCam will take some calibration data, Navcam will search for clouds near the northern horizon, and Mastcam will take another pair of Sun images.  Finally, late that night, CheMin will perform its own calibration activity.  So the science team is very busy today, with activities planned for every science instrument on 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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<![CDATA[Sols 1039-1040: Livin' on the Edge]]> Wed, 08 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

I'm MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead today, and was ready this morning to plan lots of MAHLI imaging of the bright rocks on the slope the rover first climbed on Sol 991.  But the data received after the 5.5-meter drive on Sol 1037 showed that the left front wheel is perched right at the top of a small scarp at the top of the slope.  After examining all the data, the rover planners determined that the rover position is not safe for arm activities, as arm motion could cause the front wheels to slip down the slope, putting the arm and its instruments at risk.  So all of the contact science activities were removed from the plan, and remote sensing observations added.  On Sol 1039, ChemCam and Mastcam will take a look at targets dubbed "Pistol," "Mary," Shepard," and "Dublin Gulch," and Navcam will search for dust devils.  Then the rover will drive backward just a bit to get the wheels on solid ground and allow contact science this weekend (planning is currently restricted, so we are planning 2 sols today).  On Sol 1038, Mastcam will take pictures of the Sun to look for sunspots on the side of the Sun that can't be seen from Earth now.  Because I had little to do in support of MAHLI planning today, I helped a bit in planning the post-drive Navcam mosaics that we'll need to target observations in 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[Sols 1037-1038: Familiar Terrain]]> Mon, 06 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1036 Front Hazcam

Over the weekend holiday plan, Curiosity drove back to our location on Sol 992. Previous DAN and ChemCam data from this site showed some interesting results, so we want to investigate this region in more detail.  The front Hazcam image above shows our wheel tracks from the last time we were here, and some of the bright outcrop that we want to study further.

Today’s two-sol plan includes remote sensing, a drive with several DAN active measurements, and post-drive imaging.  The pre-drive science block includes ChemCam observations on targets named “Burke,” “Polson,” and “Bonner,” to look for chemical variations in the bright outcrop.  We’ll also acquire Mastcam images of those targets, and take a large Mastcam mosaic to evaluate the sedimentary structures and to provide additional context.  Then we’ll take a short drive with a few DAN active measurements along the way.  After the drive we’ll take our standard post-drive imaging to prepare for targeting in future plans.  Today’s plan also includes some ChemCam calibration activities as well as a Mastcam observation of the sun and Navcam imaging for environmental monitoring.  It’s nice to be back in some familiar terrain and to have the chance to do even more science 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 1033-1036: Independence Day Planning!]]> Thu, 02 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700

To paraphrase our SOWG chair’s paraphrasing of the Declaration of Independence at the start of today’s SOWG meeting: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to plan a 4 sol plan, we assemble a group of patriots to make that plan. And that’s what we did today!”

Today I was back on duty as KOP and Ken was on duty for ChemCam science. As usual, it was a busy planning day! After much discussion of what to analyze with ChemCam, we decided to do a 3x3 measurement of the target “Snow Bowl” to see if we could hit some large bright grains in the rock there (similar to the ones you can see in the MAHLI image above), as well as a 3x3 observation of the “Lumpry” target that APXS analyzed yesterday. We also had a Mastcam stereo mosaic of some of the nearby layered rocks. We also have some Mastcam observations of the sun, and a Navcam observation watching for clouds.

One of the trickiest things today was deciding how to schedule our Mastcam and ChemCam observations so that no Mastcam images were taken while ChemCam was turned on. (We try to avoid this because it makes things a lot more complicated). The problem was, we wanted to use ChemCam do a “passive” observation of the sky and then we were planning to do a coordinated observation that involves taking Mastcam multispectral images before and after zapping the target “Thunderbolt” with ChemCam. We solved the problem by moving the “before” Mastcam images so that they occur at the same time of day, but on the previous sol. That way we could go straight from the ChemCam sky observation to zapping the rock target without having to do any Mastcam in between. Solving challenges like this to maximize our science return is a lot of what is involved in day-to-day rover planning.

On sol 1035, while we in the U.S. are celebrating Independence Day, the rover will drive back toward where we were on Sol 991 while doing some DAN measurements. Then on sol 1036 the rover will rest and recharge with a day dedicated to routine REMS measurements. 

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 1032: Lots of Contact Science!]]> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700

Phew! Today was a busy day on Mars! Ken and I were both on operations today, picking up where Lauren left off yesterday. Ken was helping with ChemCam science in the geology and mineralogy (GeoMin) theme group, and I was the GeoMin Keeper of the Plan (KOP). We started off the day admiring the beautiful images from the sol 1031 “dog’s-eye view” mosaic of the ledge near the target “Missoula”. Then there was a long discussion about where to do our contact science, and in particular where to put APXS for an overnight measurement. In the end, we decided to do a MAHLI mosaic of the target “Clark”, just to the left of the “dog’s eye” mosaic from sol 1031, and then a MAHLI observation of “Lumpry” which will also be the overnight APXS location.

That is followed by some Mastcam, starting with some carefully-timed images of Phobos as it crosses in front of the sun. After that, we are planning “multispectral” Mastcam observations of targets “Coombs”, “Cottonwood”, and “Lowary”. Multispectral means that we take images of the same target through several different color filters to get an idea of what the reflectance spectrum of the rocks looks like. After all that Mastcam we also have a Navcam movie to search for clouds, and a couple of Navcam images to allow more targeted Mastcam tomorrow.

But wait, there’s more! We also scheduled another MAHLI observation of the target “Seeley” which is a rock that was broken by the rover’s wheels. That is followed by ChemCam observations of “Coombs”, “Regis”, and “Spotted Bear” and associated Mastcam documentation images.

That means that once planning for today was done, we were both also involved in working on tomorrow’s plan, which will cover the long holiday weekend. We will both be on duty tomorrow in the same roles, polishing the plan we started today and making sure the rover is busy doing good science over the weekend.

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 1031: A Dog’s Eye View at Missoula]]> Tue, 30 Jun 2015 00:00:00 -0700  

Sol 1030 Missoula workspace

Today we planned some MAHLI imaging along the contact near the “Missoula” target (the ledge in the upper left portion of this Navcam image).  We refer to it as a dog’s eye mosaic, meaning that we use the MAHLI camera to take a series of images along a vertical face – essentially sticking our nose in there to get a good view.  Hopefully it will provide a good perspective on the contact between the Stimson and Pahrump units!  The plan also includes several ChemCam observations along the contact, at targets named “Selow,” “Clark,” and ldquo;Wapiti.”  We planned these as vertical transects to characterize any changes in chemistry from the Pahrump unit into the Stimson unit.  We’ll also acquire ChemCam data on the target “Seeley” – a broken rock that exposes a fresh surface.  Then we’ll take a Mastcam mosaic to capture the contact and some of the surrounding veins.  Ken Herkenhoff and I were both on duty again today, so it was fun planning here at the USGS.  We put together a really full plan to handover for Sol 1032, so we’re looking forward to some more exciting contact science tomorrow! 

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 1030: Bumping to Missoula]]> Mon, 29 Jun 2015 00:00:00 -0700  

Sol 1028 MAHLI Big Arm

Curiosity is still investigating the contact between the Pahrump and Stimson units.  Over the weekend, Curiosity acquired MAHLI images on a coarse-grained rock named “Big Arm” (above).  The goal today is to characterize some of the veins that occur above and below the contact, and then bump towards a target named “Missoula” to assess the contact at that location. 

The plan today includes ChemCam observations of vein targets named “Lemhi” and “Lowary” corresponding to high and low targets above and below the contact.  We will also acquire Mastcam images of the vein targets using all of the camera filters.  After a short drive to reposition the rover in front of “Missoula,” we’ll take some Navcam and Mastcam images to prepare for contact science tomorrow.  The plan also includes a Navcam cloud movie to monitor the atmosphere.  I was the GSTL today and Ken Herkenhoff was the SOWG Chair, so it was a busy day of rover operations here at the USGS! 

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 1027-1029: Resuming tactical operations]]> Fri, 26 Jun 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

Mars has passed through solar conjunction, and reliable communication with the spacecraft at Mars is possible again.  As planning started this morning, we were still waiting for more data to be relayed by the orbiters to confirm that MSL is ready to resume science planning, but proceeded with tactical planning so that we would be ready when the data arrived.  The Sol 1027 plan starts with Mastcam observations of several targets that were imaged just before solar conjunction, to look for changes caused by winds or maybe Marsquakes.  Mastcam will then look at the sun to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, Navcam will search for dust devils, and ChemCam/Mastcam will observe nearby targets "Piegan" and "Wallace."  On Sol 1028, the arm will be used to take MAHLI images of the rocks and soil in front of the rover from various vantage points, to measure changes in their reflectance with observation geometry ("photometry").  After dusk, APXS and MAHLI will measure 3 spots on a rock called "Big Arm" that was imaged by MAHLI during the day before solar conjunction.  The nighttime images, using MAHLI's LEDs for illumination, should nicely complement the daytime images of the rock.  Finishing off the weekend plan, on Sol 1029 ChemCam will acquire some calibration data and Mastcam will take a stereo mosaic of the outcrops to the east of the rover. 

As SOWG Chair today, I was a bit worried about planning so many activities on the first day of tactical planning in a few weeks, but the team hit the ground running and did a great job.  Early this afternoon, we got word from the downlink team that the data acquired during conjunction show that the rover is in good health, and that we were therefore "go" for planning.  MSL is back in action!

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 1003-1004: Last tactical planning before solar conjunction]]> Mon, 01 Jun 2015 00:00:00 -0700

Today is the last day of MSL tactical operations until after solar conjunction, so this will probably be the last MSL update for a few weeks.  Ryan Anderson and I are both on shift as payload uplink lead today, but because the instruments we're representing (ChemCam and MAHLI/MARDI, respectively) are already standing down in preparation for conjunction, our efforts have been focused on planning for the resumption of activities after conjunction.  We don't know precisely when tactical planning will resume, as the ability to communicate with spacecraft as Mars passes behind the Sun depends on variable solar activity.  The expectation is that the next tactical planning day will be June 25th (Sol 1026), but the schedule probably won't firm up until that week. 

The Sol 1003 plan starts with Mastcam images of the Sun to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, followed by another set of Mastcam/Navcam photometry images to extend the experiment started on Sol 1000.  Then Mastcam will take images of various targets near the rover, to be compared with images of the same targets taken after conjunction to look for changes caused by winds.  Later in the afternoon, the photometry and change-detection imaging will be repeated, and Mastcam will acquire a stereo mosaic of "Apikuni Mountain."   Then the focus motors of both Mastcams will be moved to their "home" positions for conjunction and Navcam will search for clouds above MSL.  The Sol 1004 plan includes only the usual RAD and REMS observations, a preview of the plan for the next few weeks.  During the break from tactical operations, the science team will have more time to analyze the wealth of data the rover has returned over the past 1000 sols.

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 1000-1002: Photometry]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700  

 

We're planning 3 sols of MSL activities today, starting with Sol 1000!  As we continue to prepare for solar conjunction, arm motion is allowed in this plan, but no contact science.  The plan starts with ChemCam and Mastcam observations of a platy rock called "Newland" and a Navcam search for dust devils.  Then the first of several Mastcam/Navcam photometry observations is planned.  The goal of these images of patches of ground east and west of the rover is to measure reflectivity at various times of day and compare the results with models of the physical properties of the surface.  The arm will then be moved to a position that allows imaging in front of the rover, including a large Mastcam stereo mosaic of the nearby outcrops.  The rover will wake up early on Sol 1001 for another photometry observation, which will be repeated later that morning before Mastcam and Chemcam observations of "Big Arm 2," a potential contact science target.  Three more photometry observations are planned late in the afternoon, before the arm is tucked away for conjunction.  On Sol 1002, Mastcam will observe the Sun during the day, and Phobos after dusk.  It's been a good day for me so far as SOWG Chair--not too hectic but certainly not boring!

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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