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 747 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Pahrump Hill mosaic]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The Sol 746 drive put the rover in a good location for imaging the terrain ahead, which looks good for a long drive on Sol 747.  The Sol 746 data did not hit the ground until after 11:00 PDT (as expected), so today is another "rapid traverse" planning sol and the time available for science observations is therefore more limited than usual.  Because the view of the bright "Pahrump Hills" outcrop is good from our current location, Mastcam stereo mosaics of Pahrump Hills and other features of interest are planned for the morning of Sol 747.  The Pahrump Hills mosaic should be useful in planning investigations of this nice outcrop of the rocks that form the base of Mt. Sharp

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 746 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: NASA Teleconference]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700
The Sol 744 drive went as planned (32 meters), and another drive is planned for Sol 746.  Because we can't see the terrain immediately beyond the small saddle dubbed "Jubilee Pass," the rover will drive about 9 meters into the saddle, then take images of the other side.  But first, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe targets dubbed "Anvil Spring Canyon," "Epaulet Peak," and "Copper Queen."  After the drive, another ChemCam "blind" observation of the surface to the right of the rover is planned. 

Back here on Earth, there will be a teleconference tomorrow to discuss the status of the mission and the upcoming science campaign.  Please tune in!

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 745 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ryan Anderson: Untargeted Science]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 We have not received any data from sol 744 yet, so sol 745 is a simple day of untargeted remote sensing. ChemCam has an observation of the sky (with the laser off) to measure the gases in the atmosphere, and a “blind” LIBS observation off to the right of the rover. Mastcam will take a context image for the ChemCam blind observation so we can tell what we shot, and will also make some “tau” observations of the sun to measure how much dust is in the atmosphere. We will also do standard DAN and REMS 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.]]>
<![CDATA[Sol 744 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ryan Anderson: Driving in Amargosa Valley]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The weekend plan was successful: we got good data from the Homewood contact science target, plus a nice long 92.6 meter drive on Sol 743. The plan for Sol 744 is to do routine wheel imaging, plus Mastcam mosaics of a mesa in front of the rover named “Jubilee Pass,” and a mosaic of the north and south walls of Amargosa Valley.  ChemCam will be zapping two targets named “Butte Valley” and “Antelope Valley,” and there will be supporting Mastcam images of those targets too. Navcam will be taking a movie watching for clouds above Mount Sharp.

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 741-743 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Busy Weekend]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The weekend plan is very ambitious, with a bunch of targeted remote science observations on Sol 741, contact science on Sol 742, and a long drive on Sol 743.  It has been a busy day for me as SOWG Chair, partly because our favorite contact science target was too difficult to reach with the arm instruments and we had to scramble to find another target that was both reachable and scientifically interesting.  We settled on a target dubbed "Homewood," which will be examined by MAHLI and APXS.  We now have a good view of the path into Amargosa Valley, so we expect to make good progress on Sol 743. 

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 740 Update On Curiosity From MSL Scientist Lauren Edgar: Approaching Amargosa Valley]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Curiosity is about to ingress into Amargosa Valley.  This Navcam image from Sol 739 shows some of the beautiful layered rocks that we have been driving over and analyzing recently.  The plan today includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the targets “Timber Mountain,” “Hunter Mountain” and “Wood Canyon,” as well as a Mastcam mosaic of “Owens Valley,” and a long distance ChemCam observation of Pahrump Hills.  The drive today will be short (~12 m) to the edge of the ingress to Amargosa Valley.  At the end of the drive we will acquire better imaging into the valley to help plan the ingress drive, which will hopefully occur over the weekend.  After the drive on Sol 740, Curiosity will acquire post-drive imaging for targeting, including Mastcam imaging of the workspace to prepare for possible contact science over the weekend, and standard post-drive imaging.

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 739 Update On Curiosity From MSL Scientist Lauren Edgar: Rough Road Ahead]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Curiosity has almost reached an ingress point into Armargosa Valley. 
To get into the valley, Curiosity will have to cross some fairly rough terrain, but this also provides an opportunity to analyze the bedrock as we go.  The plan today includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the targets “Silver King” and “Warm Springs.”  We are also planning a ~30 m drive, which should place us close to the edge of Armargosa Valley.  After the drive, Curiosity will acquire some standard post-drive imaging, and a 360-degree Mastcam mosaic to document the terrain from our vantage point.  Early on the morning of Sol 740, Curiosity will acquire another Mastcam mosaic to characterize the Pahrump Hills, an interesting patch of bright rocks where we hope to do a more detailed investigation.

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 738 Update On Curiosity From MSL Scientist Lauren Edgar: Pahrump Hills]]> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Curiosity is driving across a plateau towards an ingress point into “Armargosa Valley.” This image from Sol 735 shows our drive-direction: We are working our way towards the bright patch of rocks in the upper left portion of the image, known as the “Pahrump Hills.” Today’s plan includes some ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the targets “Tihvipah,” “Santa Rosa Hills,” and “Ubehebe” to characterize the local geology. The plan also includes a drive and standard post-drive imaging. In the afternoon, Curiosity will acquire a ChemCam blind target, and several Navcam movies to monitor the atmosphere and search for clouds. atmosphere and search for clouds.

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 735 -737 Update On Curiosity From USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Rapid Traverse Planning]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 The volume of data sent from MSL to Earth has been less than usual over the past few days because the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) went into "safe mode," a software state that ensures ample solar power and telecommunications.  This has happened several times before on MRO, and another prompt recovery is in progress.  Without MRO data relay, MSL operations depends on relay through the Mars Odyssey orbiter, which was not expected to be received until almost 11:00 Friday. Therefore, the planning schedule was changed to a "rapid traverse" sol, in which science observations are limited to allow the day's activities to be prepared and reviewed more quickly. This allowed us to plan a rover drive when we otherwise would not have been able to when starting at 11 AM Pacific time.  So the Sol 735 plan includes another ChemCam passive sky observation and a Mastcam panorama of the sand dunes that the rover drove past on Sol 733. Only REMS atmospheric measurements are planned for Sols 736 and 737.

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 732-734 Update On Curiosity From USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Multi-sol planning]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Yesterday we did not receive as much data as expected, so could not drive as originally planned.  Therefore, the Sol 732 plan was dominated by targeted ChemCam and Mastcam observations of "Lippincott," "Hall Canyon," and "Keeler Canyon."  Today we received all the data needed to plan a nice drive, plus MastCam and ChemCam observations of a target dubbed "Red Pass" on Sol 733.  We are planning 2 sols today to get a head start on the long weekend plan.  On Sol 734, ChemCam will take spectra of the sky during the day, then SAM will sample the atmosphere overnight.  The goal of these observations is to compare the atmospheric chemistry measured by the two instruments. 

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 731 Update On Curiosity From MSL Scientist Lauren Edgar: Large Crater Ahead]]> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 Curiosity is back to driving! We are taking the high road around Hidden Valley to avoid potentially deep ripple fields, and making our way towards a large crater. This image from Sol 729 shows the crater just ahead of us. The Sol 731 plan includes a drive to the rim of the crater and some ChemCam and Mastcam observations to characterize the local geology. In the pre-drive targeted science block, Curiosity will investigate targets named “Beck Spring,” “Eagle Mountain,” “Furnace Creek,” and “Rainstorm.” After the drive we will acquire our standard post-drive imaging and some systematic observations. Tomorrow is a soliday (a day without planning to allow Earth and Mars schedules to sync back up), so there will be no blog, but the sol 732 blog will be posted the following day.

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 728 -730 Update On Curiosity From USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Driving Again]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 After much study and discussion, the MSL team decided not to attempt to drill again into the rocks in front of the rover. On Sol 728, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe several nearby targets and the observation tray on the rover. The Sol 729 plan is dominated by the drive, with a single set of MAHLI wheel images. After the drive, on Sol 730, multiple instruments will observe the sky, ChemCam will shoot blind at the surface to the right of the rover, and MARDI will acquire another image during twilight. All of the MAHLI and MARDI activities are pretty standard, so it was an easy planning day for me as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead.

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 727 Update On Curiosity From USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Stellar Observations]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 While we wait for data acquired on Sol 726 to be received later tonight, the Sol 727 plan includes only remote sensing observations. Mastcam and ChemCam will observe both nearby and distant targets during the day, then will attempt to observe some stars after dusk. The goal of the star imaging is to determine how accurately the instruments can be pointed, to support planning for potential observations of comet Siding Spring when it passes very close to Mars in October. An additional benefit, if these stellar observations are successful, is that the data will be useful for checking the radiometric calibration of the cameras.

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 726 Update On Curiosity From USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Busy Uplink]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700 We were hoping that the Sol 726 plan would include full drilling of the Bonanza King target, but the downlink from Sol 724 showed that the mini-drill activity did not complete successfully, probably because the rock moved during drilling. Planning is still restricted, so the Sol 725 plan had not yet been sent to the spacecraft when the Sol 724 data were received. After much discussion, we decided to send the Sol 725 plan to the rover, recognizing that some of the ChemCam LIBS observations would be precluded by software because the arm will be in the way. We also decided to retract the drill and take all of the MAHLI and all of the other imaging data of the mini-drill hole that were originally planned for Sol 724 but were not acquired after the drilling was aborted. So it was a busy day for me and the other people scheduled to support MAHLI uplink!

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 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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