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 1542: More drill testing]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0700
While investigation of the drill anomaly continues, more diagnostic tests will be performed on Sol 1542.  Again, no mobility or other arm activities will be planned, so the science team added only remote sensing observations.  ChemCam will observe Hunters Beach again to further investigate the the chemical variations that LIBS measured there previously.  ChemCam and the Right Mastcam will also observe bedrock targets "Sargent Mountain" and "Youngs Mountain."  Finally, Navcam and Mastcam will take one more set of images at 8 AM on Sol 1543, to complete the photometry dataset started on Sol 1537. 

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 1541: Change detection]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1539 Mastcam Ireson Hill

The weekend plan returned some great remote sensing data, including the above Mastcam image of "Ireson Hill" to investigate the stratigraphy exposed in a distant butte. While we work on assessing the drill fault, the team decided to devote today’s plan to remote sensing and change detection.  The plan starts with ChemCam observations of “Hunters Beach” and “Gorham Mountain” to investigate the chemistry of the Murray bedrock.  Then we’ll acquire a Mastcam tau and crater rim extinction image to characterize the amount of dust in the atmosphere, followed by a Navcam dust devil search.  The plan also includes a series of Hazcam observations taken approximately every hour until sunset – this will provide a very thorough dataset to monitor the movement of sand based on time of day.  This is really important for planning MAHLI observations, because we’ve noticed a lot of movement of fines through this area at this time of year, and we’ve mostly been taking MAHLI images with the dust cover closed to protect the instrument.  If we can better understand when and where the sand is most active, we can better plan MAHLI observations, and we can improve our understanding of the eolian environment!

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 1538-1540: Targeted Remote Sensing]]> Fri, 02 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1536 Navcam

The RPs are going to take a little more time to diagnose the drill fault before we drive or use the arm again, so today’s plan is focused on targeted remote sensing.  We’re still at the “Precipice” site, assessing the composition and sedimentary structures in the Murray bedrock and carrying out some long distance observations.  Today’s plan includes a long distance ChemCam RMI mosaic to monitor linear features observed from HiRISE and another RMI mosaic to investigate the stratigraphy exposed in a butte called “Ireson Hill.”  The plan also includes a Mastcam mosaic to search for fracture patterns in the vicinity of “Squid Cove,” and a Mastcam clast survey for change detection.

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 1537: Drill fault]]> Thu, 01 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0700

Unfortunately, the much-anticipated rotary-only drilling experiment did not even start due to a drill fault that is currently being investigated.  This type of drill fault appears to be unrelated to the previous short circuits during percussion, but more study is needed.  So the tactical planning team had to scramble to put together a plan while the drill experts work to recover from this anomaly.  Luckily, the fault did not preclude non-drilling arm activities, so we picked the bright target "Thomas Bay" for contact science.  We were also able to fit a lot of remote science observations into the plan:  A Navcam cloud movie, a Right Mastcam mosaic of "Squid Cove," Mastcam measurements of dust in the atmosphere, and a small Mastcam stereo mosaic of "Baldwin Corners."  At various times of day, Navcam and Mastcam will image the ground toward and opposite the azimuth of sunset to measure the photometric (light scattering) properties of the rocks and soils near the rover.  ChemCam and the Right Mastcam will also observe bedrock target "Compass Harbor" and vein targets "Bartlett Narrows" and "Birch Point."  After drill diagnostics are performed, more Mastcam dust measurements and images of "Hulls Cove" and "Big Heath" are planned.  It was a busy day for me and the other MAHLI uplink leads, as we had to modify our command sequences to take images with MAHLI's dust cover closed and find the best time to take images in full sunlight.  Since the fine-grained Sebina sample was dumped, we are concerned about material blowing onto MAHLI's lens and sticking to it.  Finally, the APXS will be placed on Thomas Bay 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[Sol 1536: Drilling "Precipice"]]> Wed, 30 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0700

The cross-contamination experiment and cleaning of CHIMRA went well, so we are ready to drill into the Precipice target!  Past drilling activities have made use of both rotation and percussion, but percussion has caused intermittent short circuits occasionally since Sol 911, so on Sol 1536 we will test the ability of the drill to acquire a sample using rotation only, without percussion.  We expect that the Precipice target is soft enough that the experiment will go well, but of course we won't know until we try!  Drilling and associated imaging will require enough power and time that additional observations could not be added to the 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 1535: Cross-contamination experiment]]> Tue, 29 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0700

The current drill campaign continues to go smoothly, and the Sol 1535 plan is dominated by an experiment to see if any Sebina sample material is left inside the drill bit chamber from the previous drilling.  This is motivated by the fact that we only used vibration to transfer that sample from the drill bit assembly into CHIMRA, rather than also using percussion.  So it’s a “cross-contamination experiment” designed to see if the vibration didn’t do a complete job back when we first drilled Sebina.  Lots of images of the sieve and other parts of CHIMRA will be taken to verify that the system is clean.  These activities will take a fair amount of time and power, but we were able to squeeze a few remote science observations into the plan:  ChemCam will shoot its laser at bedrock targets named "West Tremont" and "Eastern Head," and the Right Mastcam will image the same targets.  The Left Mastcam will also examine fracture patterns at "Sawyer's Cove."  Finally, Navcam will search for clouds north of the rover.  If all goes well, drilling will be planned tomorrow!

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 1534: Preparing to drill]]> Mon, 28 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1533 Front Hazcam

Curiosity had a productive Thanksgiving weekend and now we are getting ready to drill at “Precipice.”  Sol 1534 begins with MAHLI imaging of the post-sieve dump pile from the previous drill sample (“Sebina”).  Then we have a short science block to acquire a ChemCam passive observation and a Mastcam multispectral observation of the dump pile.  In the afternoon the plan includes a CHIMRA “thwack” activity to clean out any remnants of the previous sample in order to prepare for a new one.  Later in the afternoon we’ll also take a ChemCam long distance RMI mosaic to investigate a linear feature observed from HiRISE.  The full drill hole is planned for Sol 1536.

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 1531-1533: Thanksgiving at Precipice]]> Wed, 23 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1526 Mastcam image

Today’s plan covers sols 1531-1533, which will take us through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. We are in place at our next drill location “Precipice” so there will be no driving in the plan, just a lot of science and preparation for drilling!

Sol 1531 will start off with ChemCam observations of Precipice as well as the targets “Frenchman Bay” and “Hunter’s Beach”, followed by Mastcam documentation of all three targets. I also managed to fit a request for some Navcams of Mt. Sharp in the Sol 1531 science block to enable some long distance RMI observations next week. After the science block, the rover will do the “pre-load test” on our drilling target to improve the accuracy of the drill next week. Precipice will also be brushed off, and APXS will settle in for an overnight measurement.

On Sol 1532, Mastcam starts off with an observation of the distant foothills of Mt. Sharp, multispectral imaging of the Precipice target (along with the associated calibration target), and imaging of the rover deck to watch for changes in the sand and dust that have collected there. Mastcam will also take a stereo image of the location where the previous drill sample will be dumped. ChemCam has an observation of a target called “Breakneck Pond” which will then be documented by Mastcam. We will round out the science block with Mastcam and Navcam atmospheric observations. Finally, on Sol 1533, we will dump out our previous drill sample and do an APXS measurement on the dump pile.

While the rover is busy with all of that, the Americans on the MSL team will be celebrating Thanksgiving, and thinking about how thankful we are that we get to work on such an amazing project with such great colleagues!

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 1528-1530: Fifteen Kilometers!]]> Tue, 22 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1526 Navcam

Our weekend plan went as expected, including a ~16 meter drive which brings us to our next drill target: “Precipice”. That drive also brings our total drive distance from Bradbury Landing to just over 15 km! We have a three sol plan today as we head into the long holiday weekend and prepare for drilling next week.

On Sol 1528, Mastcam has a 3x10 mosaic to provide context for the drill site, followed by ChemCam images of the drill bit and a MARDI twilight image of the ground beneath the rover. On the following sol, Navcam and Mastcam start the day with a set of atmospheric observations to watch for dust devils and measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere. After that, ChemCam has a passive sky observation, followed by active measurements of the targets “Thomas Bay”, “The Anvil”, and “The Ovens”. Mastcam then has a change detection observation on the targets “Hulls Cove” and “Big Heath” along with documentation of the ChemCam targets, including the AEGIS target from sol 1526. Mastcam and Navcam will then repeat some of the atmospheric observations from the morning.

In contrast to our busy Sol 1529, sol 1530 will be relatively quiet, with a focus on downlinking data and our normal background data collection from REMS and DAN.

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 1525-1527: Contact science at Sutton Island and approaching the next drill site]]> Fri, 18 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1523 MAHLI of Seawall

The MAHLI images from Sol 1523 are down, and we acquired some beautiful images of this new outcrop, as seen in the above image of the target "Seawall."  Today’s plan is focused on finishing the investigation at “Sutton Island,” and then driving towards the next drill target, ~9 m away.

The plan starts with a couple of Navcam and Mastcam observations to monitor the opacity of the atmosphere and search for clouds.  Then we’ll acquire ChemCam observations of “Ironbound Island” and “Goat Trail” to assess the composition of the bedrock. The plan also includes several Mastcam mosaics to characterize the geometry of this deposit and document its sedimentary structures.  In the afternoon Curiosity will acquire MAHLI images of “Ironbound Island” to characterize the more typical Murray bedrock in this area, followed by an overnight APXS integration on the same target. On the second sol Curiosity will drive toward the next drill target as we continue our systematic campaign of sampling the Murray formation. After the drive we’ll take post-drive imaging, including workspace imaging to prepare for upcoming contact science and characterizing the intended drill site.  We’ll also take a ChemCam AEGIS observation on the second sol.  In addition to all of these activities, the rover will perform a SAM atmospheric observation to look for methane.  Quite the weekend for Curiosity!

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 1523-1524: Investigating Sutton Island]]> Wed, 16 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Mastcam Sutton Island Sol 1519


On Sol 1521 Curiosity drove 11 m to the east, which set us up to investigate a darker-toned outcrop known as “Sutton Island,” seen in the middle of the above Mastcam image.  Today’s plan is focused on contact science to study the grain size, stratification, and chemistry of the “Sutton Island” outcrop.  I was the GSTL today, and it was a busy day of planning!  It took a while to find contact science targets that we could safely reach with the DRT, MAHLI and APXS.  Eventually we found targets that would work, and we planned MAHLI and APXS on two distinct parts of the outcrop, including a DRT location on the top of the outcrop to analyze a clean brushed surface.  We were also able to plan a MAHLI “dogs eye” mosaic to investigate the stratification at a target known as “Seawall.” In addition to contact science, we planned ChemCam observations of the targets “Duck Harbor,” “Islesford,” and “Sutton Island,” to look for changes in chemistry.  Overnight, Curiosity will acquire APXS integrations on the two different contact science targets.  Then on the second sol we’ll use all of the Mastcam filters to assess the spectral properties of this different outcrop.  Later in the afternoon we’ll take a large Mastcam mosaic for geologic context, and Curiosity will perform a ChemCam calibration activity.

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 1516-1520: Playing in the Sand]]> Mon, 14 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1518 Navcam image of the arm extended to analyze dark sand

We’re continuing to make steady progress, with successful drives interspersed with plenty of good science. In the Sol 1516 plan, we started off with a Mastcam mosaic of “West Mesa” to study the stratigraphy, followed by a big 5x5 point ChemCam analysis on the nodular target “Ship Island” which brings ChemCam to more than 400,000 laser shots! ChemCam also analyzed the target “Stave Island” and Mastcam documented both targets as well as the auto-targeted location from Sol 1514. Mastcam rounded out the science block with a small mosaic of some interesting dark rocks. After that, Curiosity drove, and ChemCam did another auto-targeted observation. Sol 1517 was pretty simple, with a Mastcam image of the rover deck, Navcam atmospheric monitoring, and a twilight MARDI image.

The Sol 1516 drive brought us to a sandy location, so the Sol 1518 plan takes advantage of that location to study the sand. The plan starts out with Mastcam observations to monitor the amount of dust in the atmosphere, followed by ChemCam observations of “Folly Island”, “Burnt Porcupine”, “Hadley Point”, and “Old Whale Ledge”. Mastcam will document all of those targets, plus the AEGIS target from Sol 1516. Mastcam also has an observation to extend the mosaic of the workspace. With the remote sensing done, MAHLI will image “Folly Island” and the sandy targets “Sheep Porcupine” and “Bald Porcupine”. APXS will also measure Sheep Porcupine and Bald Porcupine. Late in the day, Mastcam will repeat the observations of atmospheric dust.

On Sol 1519, we have a short drive with the usual post-drive imaging, and ChemCam will do another automated observation. Sol 1520 is an untargeted Sol, so we are focusing on imaging distant targets. Mastcam has a mosaic of the upcoming “Hematite Ridge”, ChemCam has a long-distance RMI of Mt. Sharp, and NavCam will look to the northern horizon to measure the dust in the atmosphere.

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 1521-1522: Making progress toward the next drill site]]> Mon, 14 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1519 Navcam

Curiosity continues to drive across bumpy terrain of the Murray formation.  Over the weekend, Curiosity drove ~36 m, making good progress toward our next drill site.  Today’s two-sol plan starts with several ChemCam observations to assess the chemistry of the local bedrock and veins.  We’ll also acquire a long-distance ChemCam RMI mosaic to examine layers in Mt. Sharp.  Then Curiosity will acquire Mastcam images to document the ChemCam targets as well as to evaluate the stratification exposed in nearby outcrops.  We’ll also take several Navcam images to search for dust devils and monitor cloud activity.  After the drive, we’ll take Navcam and Mastcam images of the workspace to prepare for contact science in the next plan.  In the afternoon, Curiosity will acquire a ChemCam AEGIS observation.  In the early morning of Sol 1522, Curiosity will perform a few environmental monitoring observations to evaluate atmospheric opacity and to search for clouds.  I’ll be on duty on Wednesday, so I’m looking forward to a fun day of contact science!

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 1514-1515: Touch and Go at Southwest Harbor]]> Mon, 07 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1513 navcam

Our weekend plan was successful, with lots of good observations and a 43 meter drive. Today’s 2-sol plan starts out with a brief contact science block, during which MAHLI will observe the target “Southwest Harbor”. After that, we have a remote sensing block. ChemCam will observe some nodules in the targets “Asticou” and “Bass Harbor Head”. Mastcam will document those targets, as well as the Sol 1513 ChemCam AEGIS target. Mastcam also will take images of a laminated target called “Halls Quarry”, some nearby blocks called “Baker Island” and “Acadia”, and some cross-bedding in the target “Seal Harbor”. After the remote sensing block, the rover will drive and then do post-drive imaging and a ChemCam AEGIS observation. On Sol 1515, ChemCam has a passive sky observation, and Navcam has a couple of atmospheric monitoring observations.

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 1511-1513: Brushing Penobscot]]> Fri, 04 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0700
After driving over 40 meters on Sol 1509, MSL is ready for the 3-sol weekend plan.  There are a couple of good-sized outcrops in the arm workspace, so we're planning contact science on Sol 1511.  But first, Navcam will look for clouds and ChemCam will observe bedrock targets named "Pemetic," "Jordan Pond," and "Penobscot."  The Right Mastcam will then image Jordan Pond, Pemetic, and the ChemCam target selected by AEGIS on Sol 1509, and acquire a 9x3 mosaic of sedimentary structures southwest of the rover.  Later that afternoon, the DRT will brush off Penobscot and MAHLI will image the brushed spot and Pemetic from 25, 5 and 1 centimeter.  The APXS will be placed on Pemetic for a pair of integrations that evening, then placed on Penobscot for an overnight integration. 

On Sol 1512, Mastcam will acquire a 5x4 stereo mosaic of the outcrop around Penobscot and a multispectral observation of the brushed spot.  Next, MAHLI will image the rover wheels at 5 locations separated by small "bumps" to monitor wheel wear.  Then it's time for another drive and the post-drive imaging needed for a potential "touch and go" on Sol 1514. 

Sol 1513 starts with another ChemCam observation using AEGIS and Mastcam measurements of atmospheric dust opacity.  Finally, CheMin will read out the data resulting from the recent analysis of empty sample cells and MARDI will acquire another image during twilight.  The rover will then get some well-earned rest and charge her batteries overnight.  It was a busy morning for me and the other MAHLI/MARDI uplink leads, but we're happy with the 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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