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 725 Update On Curiosity From USGS Scientist Ryan Anderson: Zapping Targets]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 We are still looking forward to data from sol 724’s mini-drill experiment, and since we don’t have that yet, we can’t do the full drill in the sol 725 plan. So instead, we are doing a remote sensing day on sol 725, which means lots of Mastcam and ChemCam. ChemCam will be zapping four targets: the tailings from the mini-drill on “Bonanza King”, plus targets “Carrara,” “Perdido,” and “Lee Flat”. Mastcam will be taking documentation images of those targets, plus a mosaic of the target “Lone Pine” and a photometry experiment to measure how sunlight reflects from the martian soil at different illumination angles. There are also some Mastcam images of the sun to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, and Navcam will be looking for clouds over Mount Sharp. Meanwhile, CheMin will be getting ready to ingest some of the drilled rock powder by rotating an empty analysis cell into position.

While we wait for pictures of our mini-drill results, I highly recommend that you take a look at this post on Curiosity’s wheel damage by Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society. I found it useful even as a MSL team member because it distills a lot of information into one place.

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 724 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ryan Anderson: Mini-Drill Hole]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Everything went well over the weekend, and the drill target seems to be nice and stable, so for the Sol 724 plan, Curiosity will do a “mini-drill” into Bonanza King. This activity is complicated enough that there wasn’t much of a chance to do any science observations other than those that support the drilling, except for standard DAN and REMS environmental monitoring. The mini-drill activity does basically what it sounds like: it drills just a little bit into the target. We do this to make sure the rock characteristics are safe for a full-depth drill hole. One step closer to a 4th full drill hole on Mars!

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 721 on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ryan Anderson: Bonanza King]]> Sat, 16 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 We’re gearing up for our fourth drill hole on Mars! For the sol 721 plan, we have a long block of time dedicated thoroughly analyzing the drill target Bonanza King. During this block, we will analyze 25 points on the target with ChemCam in a 5x5 grid, and follow up with Mastcam images of Bonanza King using multiple different filters (we call images like this that use multiple different filters multispectral images). Mastcam will also take multispectral images of targets Millers Spring and Smokey, plus a mosaic of the south wall of Hidden Valley to cover an area that previous mosaics did not.

Sol 722 will be dedicated to contact science on the drill target, with MAHLI images and APXS measurements. The rover will also collect data to make sure that it is in a stable location for drilling, brush the drill target, and test placing the drill on the target and pre-loading it. Pre-loading is another term for “pushing” and is necessary for the drill to work: If you have ever done home improvements and had to drill into wood, you know that you have to push to get the drill bit to bite into the wood. The same idea applies to Curiosity’s drill, and we do the pre-load test to make sure the target doesn’t move when the rover pushes on it.

After the complicated sol 721 and 722 plans, sol 723 will be a simple sol with just some environmental monitoring.

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 720 Update on Curiosity from MSL Scientist Lauren Edgar: Looking for Clouds]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Today is a restricted sol, so we are planning a number of untargeted observations. Curiosity should have bumped on Sol 719 to put the condensed drilling target Bonanza King in the work volume, and we are waiting for those data to come down. The Sol 720 plan includes a Mastcam and Navcam photometry experiment to characterize differences in lighting over the same region at different times of day, and a ChemCam blind observation. The plan also includes a couple of ChemCam RMI mosaics to characterize the local geology, and Mastcam imaging to monitor the sand ripples in Hidden Valley. There are also several environmental monitoring activities, including standard REMS and RAD observations, Navcam imaging to look for any clouds related to Mt. Sharp, and Navcam imaging to search for dust devils.

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 719 Update on Curiosity from MSL Scientist Lauren Edgar: Second Anniversary Webcast]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Curiosity is at the northern end of Hidden Valley, and we are preparing for condensed drilling on the target Bonanza King. Condensed drilling means that we will attempt to acquire a drilled sample with high efficiency – including bumping to the target, characterizing the target, drilling and transferring the sample. Bonanza King is part of a light-toned, potentially fine-grained outcrop. When Curiosity drove over Bonzana King on a previous sol, we exposed a fresh rock face. The plan today includes several ChemCam observations to characterize the drill target, a bump to the drill location, and some post-drive imaging to prepare for contact science.

In celebration of the 2nd anniversary of the successful landing on Mars, Ashwin Vasavada (MSL Deputy Project Scientist) will be giving public lectures on Thursday and Friday. If you can't travel to Pasadena for either of the lectures, they will be broadcast on the web.

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 718 Update On Curiosity From USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Conducting Baseline Tests]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Planning is "restricted" this week again (Sol 717 post-drive data will not be received until late this afternoon), so only untargeted observations are planned for Sol 718. For example, Mastcam and ChemCam will observe the sky and calibration targets on the rover, and CheMin and SAM will conduct baseline tests.

In celebration of the 2nd anniversary of MSL's successful landing on Mars, Ashwin Vasavada (MSL Deputy Project Scientist) will be giving public lectures on Thursday and Friday. If you can't travel to Pasadena for either of the lectures, they will be broadcast on the web.

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 717 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ryan Anderson: Vantage Point]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The sol 714 drive was successful and the rover traveled 37.5 meters to the vantage point we were aiming for. For the Sol 717 plan, we’re planning to drive the rover back to the entrance of Hidden Valley to investigate possible drilling locations. Before the drive there will also be a Mastcam observation of the entrance to Amargosa Valley. Science-wise, the sol 717 plan has ChemCam and Mastcam images of the target Pogonip, a ChemCam LIBS analysis of a target called Greenwater, and Mastcam stereo of the Greenwater region. We also have a ChemCam blind observation after the drive, along with other routine measurements.

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 714 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ryan Anderson: On Solid Ground]]> Sun, 10 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The Sol 713 drive got us out of the sand and onto solid (albeit rocky) ground! For Sol 714, the plan is to drive the rest of the way out of Hidden Valley to a slight high point in the terrain so that we can take pictures for route planning. Before the drive on sol 714, there is a ChemCam blind observation and a Mastcam observation of a target called Harkless. During the drive, there will be a pause for some mid- drive imaging of the rover’s tracks. And then on sols 715 and 716 the rover will be in planned runout mode, meaning it will just make routine environmental measurements.

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 713 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ryan Anderson: High Road or Low Road?]]> Fri, 08 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The plan for Sol 713 is to do some brief ChemCam and Mastcam observations of a target called Thorndike, and then drive. The goal of the drive is to move the rover a short distance back in the direction we came from to get out of the sand that has been causing driving difficulties recently. Once we’re on more stable ground, we will weigh science and engineering considerations and decide what our driving strategy will be: do we keep trying to drive in the sand in Hidden Valley, or do we drive on the rocky surface of Zabriskie plateau?

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 712 Update On Curiosity From MSL Scientist Lauren Edgar: Rover-Sand Interaction]]> Wed, 06 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Curiosity is still at the northern end of Hidden Valley, and the rover planners are trying to decide on the best approach for upcoming drives. The plan today consists of Mastcam observations to characterize the local geology, as well as some extra images to understand rover-sand interactions. This MAHLI image from Sol 711 shows the wheels interacting with sand. The plan also includes Mastcam observations of the transit of Mars’ moon Phobos. The next few sols are scheduled as rapid traverse sols.

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 711 Update on Curiosity from MSL Scientist Lauren Edgar: Slippage]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Curiosity is still at the northern end of Hidden Valley. The past few drives have experienced some slip, so we are collecting data to investigate how the wheels are interacting with sand, and considering a number of drive strategies. This Navcam image from Sol 710 shows some of the progress we made into the ripple field before we decided to back up. The plan today includes a pre-drive targeted science block, MAHLI wheel imaging, a drive, post-drive imaging for targeting, and an afternoon untargeted science block. The morning science block includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations of a light-toned rock named Gold Ace, and the afternoon block includes another blind ChemCam target. The next few sols will be rapid traverse sols.

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 710 Update On Curiosity From USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Deep Tracks]]> Mon, 04 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The Sol 709 drive was not as long as planned because the minimum 2 meters of progress out of 4.5 meters commanded was not achieved. This software check may be disabled for future drives across sandy material, to allow more slippage before the rover stops driving. The Sol 710 plan includes Mastcam mosaics of the walls of the valley the rover is in, and a ChemCam observation of a target dubbed Desert Range near the right edge of the rover track seen here. Then the rover will drive a few meters back along its tracks and take the standard post-drive data. I was MARDI/MAHLI uplink lead today, and helped plan some ChemCam RMI calibration observations as well.

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 707 Update On Curiosity From MSL Scientist Lauren Edgar: Entering the Valley]]> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Curiosity has just entered Hidden Valley! For a view into the valley and information about our plans for exploring the geology, check out the recent press release. Today’s 3-sol plan is a busy one, including ChemCam observations on a disturbed soil target in a wheel track (Saline Valley), an undisturbed soil (Redlands), and contact science on a rock named Stirling. We also planned a number of MAHLI images, including the rock Stirling and another disturbed soil target named Mule Spring, along with APXS on the soil. In addition, we planned a number of Mastcam mosaics on the walls of Hidden Valley, and a drive into the valley. Another great day on Mars!

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 706 Update on Curiosity from MSL Scientist Lauren Edgar: Scenic Route]]> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Today we planned contact science (APXS and MAHLI) on a rock target named Thimble, and an extra MAHLI image of an adjacent rock named Poleta. These observations will give us good chemical and textural information for the rocks that we’ve been driving across. We also planned a ~30 m drive down into Hidden Valley, with additional ChemCam and Mastcam observations of a blind target, and standard post-drive imaging. We’re looking forward to some beautiful scenery in the coming weeks as we work our way through the valleys.

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 705 Update On Curiosity From MSL Scientist Lauren Edgar: Hidden Valley]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Today we are planning Sol 705, and Curiosity is just about to drive down from the Zabriskie Plateau into Hidden Valley, where the terrain should be much easier to traverse. The Sol 705 plan includes a bump towards targets named Resting Spring and Thimble, to prepare for contact science tomorrow. It will be a good chance to understand the hard, angular, cap rocks that create the rough terrain that we’ve been driving across. The plan also includes ChemCam LIBS of a target called Poleta, which we hope to analyze with APXS tomorrow, as well as ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the Windjana dump pile (a sample from The Kimberley, which we finally dumped yesterday). There are also a number of Mastcam and ChemCam RMI observations to document the local geology.

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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