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 1245-1247: Analyzing Murray formation bedrock]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1243 Navcam contact science

On Sol 1244, Curiosity bumped 2 meters forward to get to a nice patch of bedrock.  The focus of the weekend plan is to study typical Murray formation bedrock, do some targeted remote sensing, and then drive towards the Naukluft Plateau.

The 3-sol weekend plan starts by using the DRT to clear off the dust on the target “Kudis.”  Then we’ll acquire MAHLI images of this typical Murray formation bedrock.  Nearby, there’s an interesting patch of nodules, so the science team decided to go for a second MAHLI target named “Tinkas.”  In addition to all of the contact science on “Kudis” and “Tinkas,” MAHLI will also be used for wheel imaging and to check out the REMS UV sensor.  Overnight, we’ll acquire APXS data on both targets, to compare the typical bedrock composition to the nodule-rich composition.   On the second sol, Curiosity will wake up early for some atmospheric monitoring observations.  Around midday, we’ll acquire Mastcam multispectral imaging of “Kudis,” followed by a ChemCam passive observation of the sky.  ChemCam will also be used to assess the composition of typical bedrock and the nodule-rich rock, and Mastcam will document the local geology.  On the third sol, Curiosity will drive towards the Naukluft Plateau, and acquire post-drive imaging to prepare for next week.  Sounds like a busy 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[Sol 1244: Bump, Set… Scuff!]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1243 Navcam

Today’s plan is focused on bumping towards a bedrock target to set us up for contact science in the weekend plan.  As we bump forward, we’ll use the rear wheels to create one last scuff in Namib Dune, which we’ll image as we drive away.

I was the GSTL today, and we had a busy morning deciding where to drive to and how to image the scuff that we’ll create.  We decided to bump just a few meters away to a target that will allow us to characterize typical Murray formation bedrock (the intended target is in the lower half of the above Navcam image).  Before the drive, we planned a ChemCam passive observation of a distant crater to characterize the material that makes up the Gale crater walls.  We also planned a Mastcam image of a freshly broken rock named “Askevold,” and Mastcam deck monitoring to search for the movement of fines.  Then we’ll drive forward slightly, turn the wheels to undermine a ripple, image it with Mastcam, and then drive towards the contact science target.  After the drive we’ll acquire imaging to prepare for contact science and targeting in the weekend plan, and we’ll also do some ChemCam calibration activities.  Looking forward to being back on bedrock!

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 1243: Getting ready to leave Namib Dune]]> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1242 Navcam of contact science

Sol 1242 MAHLI close-up of sand

The contact science activities on Sol 1242 were successful, which completed our investigation at the Namib Dune sampling location.  I love the above Navcam image, which shows just how close we were able to get MAHLI to the dump piles, followed by the really high-resolution MAHLI image!  Now it’s time to leave Namib Dune and head off in search of the next drill location.

I was the GSTL today, and it was a pretty straightforward day.  Due to additional CHIMRA diagnostics, there wasn’t much time for additional science.  The plan includes turning and backing up to allow a DAN active measurement over the dune sampling location.  In the geology theme group, we focused our attention on post-drive imaging, to prepare for the possibility of contact science or drilling in an upcoming plan.  In addition to all of the great science on active dunes, it’s exciting to think about the bedrock and where we might drill next!

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 1242: Last analyses of the dump piles]]> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1241 Front Hazcam workspace

Today was the last day for science activities at Namib Dune, as we’re planning to drive away on Sol 1243.  It’s fun looking at the disturbed sand in the workspace, and realizing how much we’ve done here (is it just me, or does it look like a big sandbox full of scoops, dumps and wheel scuffs?).  While it might look like Curiosity has just been playing in the sand, we’ve managed to accomplish a lot of really great science here. 

Today’s plan includes additional CHIMRA diagnostics, and a number of MAHLI and APXS observations of the dump piles.  It’s impressive how close we’re able to get MAHLI to the sand, which should enable some really high-resolution studies of the grain properties.   The plan also includes several Mastcam and ChemCam RMI observations of the ripples to look for changes.  I’ll be on duty tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to driving off in search of the next drill target!

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 1241: Wrapping up at Namib Dune]]> Mon, 01 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1239 Mastcam scarp

Curiosity is still parked at Namib dune, and we are we are close to finishing the science investigation here.  The team is still working to diagnose the CHIMRA anomaly, but the arm was cleared for use in today’s plan. 

The science activities in today’s plan include some additional MAHLI images to supplement the previously acquired selfie, and some long-distance ChemCam RMI mosaics to study layering on Mt. Sharp and the northern crater rim.  We’ll also acquire a Mastcam image to document the target “Erongo,” and use Navcam to search for dust devils and monitor the atmosphere.  Then we’ll use MAHLI to document several of the scoop and dump locations.  There’s also an early science block on the morning of Sol 1242, during which Mastcam and Navcam will image the ripple target “Epupa” under favorable morning illumination conditions.  I’ll be on duty later this week so I’m catching up on our remaining science requirements at this location.

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 1239-1240: Analyzing the Sands of Mars]]> Fri, 29 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0700

Since the anomaly with CHIMRA is still being investigated, there was no science involving the arm in today’s plan. Still, there was plenty to do, and we had to be careful not to collect too much extra data because there is a backlog of data on the rover waiting to be downlinked to Earth.

 On Sol 1239 we planned a bunch of observations of a target called “Gosser Schroffenstein” in the area called “Mniszechis Vlei” (I am really enjoying the names list lately) where the rover’s wheel scuff in the sand exposed a tiny scarp or cliff in the sand. This little scarp gives us a good view of the fine-scaled layering in the top few centimeters of the dune. ChemCam will take an RMI mosaic of Gosser Schroffenstein, followed by an active LIBS analysis targeting the face of the scarp. After that, the RMI mosaic will be repeated to see if the laser pulses caused any changes in the delicate sand scarp. Once ChemCam is done, Mastcam will take a 5 image stereo mosaic of the whole Mniszechis Vlei area. Mastcam also has another change detection observation of the target “Hebron” and Navcam has an atmospheric observation. Once the science is done on Sol 1239, we will do some more diagnostics on the CHIMRA. Later in the day on Sol 1239, CheMin will analyze some of the sand that was collected previously.

On Sol 1240 ChemCam has a few passive (no laser) observations of the Mastcam and ChemCam calibration targets. These are followed by a couple of long-distance RMI mosaics of Mt. Sharp. These are observations that I have been advocating for recently, so it was nice to be able to fit them in the plan today while I was on duty as the ChemCam science PUL. Mastcam will take color images to help document the long distance RMI mosaics, and will repeat the change detection observations of Hebron a couple more times.

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 1237-1238: CHIMRA Diagnostics]]> Wed, 27 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0700

The cause of the CHIMRA anomaly is still being investigated, so no arm motion was planned today while diagnostic testing continues.  Because only remote science observations are allowed, it was a straightforward day for me as SOWG Chair and for the rest of the tactical science team.  The only challenge was that the volume of data expected to be received in time for planning on Friday is less than usual because MRO is performing some planned maintenance this week and cannot relay data from MSL.  Fortunately, it looks like we will be able to get all the critical data via the Mars Odyssey orbiter.

In addition to the CHIMRA diagnostic tests on Sol 1237, ChemCam and Mastcam will image the alluvial fan northeast of the rover, at the base of the Gale crater wall.  Mastcam and Navcam will also take stereo images of the edge of the area disturbed by the wheel scuff, named "Mniszechis Vlei."  I don't know how to pronounce that name, and didn't even try!

The command to allow SAM to analyze the sample of dune sand was not received, so we'll try again overnight between Sols 1237 and 1238.  Then during the day on Sol 1238 ChemCam will observe the sky and continue checking out new software that will allow autonomous ChemCam targeting.  Mastcam change detection observations of the sand dune are also sprinkled throughout the plan.  Finally, just after sunset the RMI will take images of the sky for instrument calibration.  We have been trying to plan this observation for weeks, and were glad to be able to include it in today's 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 1235-1236: CHIMRA Anomaly]]> Mon, 25 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0700

I'm scheduled as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead today, and was looking forward to planning more close-up imaging as the Namib dune campaign continues.  Unfortunately, the CHIMRA behaved in an unexpected way during processing of the third scoop on Sol 1231, which prevented completion of the arm activities planned for last weekend.  While experts evaluate the anomalous behavior and develop a recovery plan, no new arm activities will be planned.  So I didn't have much to do today and focused on what should be done after the anomaly is resolved.

The Sol 1235 plan includes ChemCam and Mastcam change-detection images of Hebron and new observations of the scuff floor target Husab.  In addition, ChemCam will analyze bedrock target "Etjo" and Mastcam will image CHIMRA to confirm its configuration.  Overnight, SAM will
analyze the 0.15-1.0 mm size fraction of the dune sand.  Before dawn on Sol 1236, ChemCam will search for evidence of water frost on both fine sand and the Etjo bedrock target.  After sunrise, the ChemCam RMI and Right Mastcam will take pictures of the same frost targets, then Mastcam and Navcam will acquire an early-morning set of photometry images.  Later that sol, ChemCam will observe the sky and Mastcam will repeat the Hebron observation to look for changes.  Finally, Mastcam and Navcam will repeat the photometry observation later in the morning of Sol 1237.

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 1232-1235: Working through the To-Do list]]> Fri, 22 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0700

We are steadily continuing to check things off of the long “To Do” list for our stop at Namib Dune. This weekend’s plan starts on sol 1232 with a day dedicated to analyzing the sand samples with SAM. Then, on Sol 1233 we will start off with Mastcam change detection on the target “Hebron” and then a “multispectral” observation of the target “Hakos” using all of Mastcam’s different color filters. Next up, ChemCam has an RMI mosaic of “Gobabeb” dump pile A and then an analysis of the vein target “Sanitatis”.  Next MAHLI will take a bunch of pictures of the various dump piles and scoops in the dune.

On sol 1234, we have a long, busy science block full of Mastcam and ChemCam. It starts off with Mastcam multispectral observations of the Sanitatis vein, and of dump piles C,D,E, and F. This is followed by some Mastcam atmospheric observations of the sun and the crater rim to help determine the amount of dust in the atmosphere. ChemCam will then analyze dump piles C and D, first with the laser off to get the reflectance spectra, and then with the laser on to get chemical composition. ChemCam will also use the laser to analyze the soil target “Dwyka” and then will finish up with a long distance RMI mosaic of Mt. Sharp. Then we will take Mastcam images of each of the ChemCam targets. We will finish up the science block with some photometry images from Mastcam and Navcam to help understand how light scatters off the Martian surface, and then some Navcam atmospheric monitoring movies. Finally, APXS will analyze dump pile B overnight.

The weekend plan also includes an early morning science block on the morning of sol 1235, which will contain more Navcam movies, Mastcam observations of atmospheric dust, and a repeat of the photometry experiment at a different time of day to capture a different lighting angle.

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 1230-1231: Getting the scoop at Namib Dune]]> Wed, 20 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0700

Our campaign to analyze “Namib Dune” continues! In the sol 1230-1231 plan the main event is dropping off some sand in the SAM instrument, but some of the other instruments got a workout too. The sol 1230 plan originally included a science block with some ChemCam, Mastcam, and Navcam observations, but unfortunately that had to be cut to save power, so those observations will have to happen over the weekend. With the science block removed, the first activity on sol 1230 is a Mastcam observation of the SAM inlet. After this, the rover will drop off a sample of sand for SAM to analyze. Then while the arm is active MAHLI will observe the dump piles, including some night-time observations using the built-in LEDs to illuminate the piles.  APXS also has a couple of overnight measurements on two of the dump piles.

 On Sol 1231, we will start off with some Navcam and Hazcam images to document where APXS was making its measurements, plus Mastcam observations of the SAM inlet again. This will be followed by some arm activities to clean out the components of the sample handling system. Then we'll dive back in and collect another scoop of material from the dune, sieve it, and deliver it to SAM too. Finally, APXS will be placed on another of our dump piles for an overnight measurement. And of course REMS and DAN will be collecting data each sol of the plan as usual.

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 1228-1229: Selfie and Scooping]]> Mon, 18 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0700

Our campaign to analyze the Bagnold dunes continues! In the Sol 1228 plan we have a bunch of arm activity, starting with a rover “selfie” in front of the sand dune, followed by scooping up and sieving a sample of sand. Mastcam and MAHLI will both thoroughly document the scooping process. Mastcam also has a change detection observation of the target “Hebron”.

On Sol 1229, Mastcam will repeat that change detection observation two more times. Mastcam also has observations of the dump piles from the scoop target “Gobabeb”, plus a Mastcam and Navcam photometry experiment. ChemCam will take passive spectra of the Gobabeb dump piles, followed by active analysis of dump pile A. That will be followed by atmospheric observations by Mastcam and Navcam.

In the afternoon on Sol 1229, ChemCam will analyze dump pile B, and Mastcam will take another change detection image of Hebron. The Mastcam and Navcam photometry experiment will also collect a few more images on sol 1229. 

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 1225-1227: Analyzing dump piles]]> Fri, 15 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1223 Navcam scuff

Sol 1223 MAHLI

As seen in the images above, the arm activities on Sols 1223-1224 went well, and we’re ready for even more contact science in the 3-sol weekend plan.  To kick things off, ChemCam will analyze the composition of the wall of the scuff and will also document a sharp-crested ripple with the RMI.  Then Mastcam will document the ChemCam target and look for sand movement.  Overnight, APXS will be used to measure the composition of the background undisturbed sand.  On the second sol, a fine-grained portion of sand (<150 microns) will be delivered to CheMin for analysis.  Then we’ll dump both the fine (<150 microns) and coarse-grained (> 150 microns) portions, and analyze the fine-grained dump pile with MAHLI and APXS. The third sol includes a Mastcam change-detection activity, followed by Navcam to monitor the deck to search for the movement of fines.  Overnight, CheMin will analyze the sample that was delivered the previous sol.  Phew!  Sounds like a busy weekend for Curiosity!

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 1223-1224: Scooping sand for SAM]]> Wed, 13 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0700

The Sol 1221 drive went well, including a wheel scuff in the dark sand dune, and the rover is in a good position for contact science.  The Sol 1223-1224 plan is therefore loaded with arm activities, limited by the available power.  First, MAHLI will take pictures of a couple of locations on the dune surface that has not been disturbed by the wheels, and of sand that was disturbed by the wheel scuff.  Then the APXS will be placed as close as possible to the scuffed sand for an overnight integration.  On Sol 1224, the scoop will be used to acquire a sample of the undisturbed dune sand.  This sample will be sieved and the finest material (less than 0.15 mm diameter grains) will be dropped into the SAM inlet.  SAM will then analyze the sample overnight, into the wee hours of Sol 1225.  I'm paying close attention to planning today because I'm scheduled to serve as SOWG Chair on Friday.

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 1221-1222: Back on track]]> Mon, 11 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0700

MSL has recovered from the motor controller anomaly, so tactical operations are back on track, with a drive to the dune sampling area planned for Sol 1221.  I helped the ChemCam team select targets for LIBS and RMI observations today.  Before the drive, ChemCam will observe a target named "Probeer" on a patch of bedrock in front of the rover.  Mastcam will also image Probeer and acquire a stereo mosaic of the nearby part of the Namib dune.  After the drive, in addition to the imaging planned to support arm work and targeted remote sensing, Navcam will acquire a small mosaic of the upper part of Mt. Sharp.  Overnight, SAM will measure the abundance of methane in the atmosphere, then Navcam and Mastcam will look for clouds and dust early in the morning of Sol 1222.  Later that sol, Mastcam and RMI will image the wall of a ~4 km-diameter crater about 30 km to the west.  ChemCam and Mastcam will then observe the sky, and Mastcam will acquire a small stereo mosaic to look for changes in the nearby dune.  Throughout the plan, REMS will measure wind speeds for comparison with any motion of sand observed by the cameras.

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 1218-1220: Change in plans]]> Fri, 08 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0700

We came in this morning curious to see how the Sol 1217 bump and scuff went, but unfortunately there was an anomaly that prevented any use of motors during the plan.  No motors meant no drive and no scuff, and most of our planned activities did not occur.  So today turned into a recovery day – first trying to assess what happened and why it happened, and then figuring out how to proceed.  Thanks to some impressive work by the science and engineering teams, we developed a plan that allows for recovery on Sol 1218, followed by some opportunistic science on Sols 1219-1220.  I was the GSTL today, and we had a fun but challenging day trying to figure out how to do good science without moving the rover or the mast.  Ultimately we delivered some ChemCam and Mastcam activities that will help to assess the composition of the soil, and search for any wind-driven movement of fines.  The weekend plan provided a unique opportunity to do several coordinated change-detection observations using both Mastcam and REMS, at multiple times throughout the day.  Looking ahead to next week, we’re hoping to proceed with the bump and scuff to get back on track with the Namib Dune sampling activities!

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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