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 978-979: Jocko Chute]]> Wed, 06 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

Looking ahead to Logan Pass

The sol 976 drive was successful and we are close to “Jocko Chute” (our informal name for the saddle point west of Jocko Butte). In the sol 978 plan, we have a ChemCam LIBS observation of a patch of exposed bedrock called “Big Salmon”, followed by lots of Mastcam images. There is a 14x3 mosaic of some hills in the direction of our drive, some single frame high-resolution images of the targets “Silvertip”, “White_Coyote”, and part of the wall of “Logan Pass”. There is also a stereo Mastcam image of an outcrop called “White Horse” and a 4x2 mosaic of Jocko Butte.

Once all that is done, we will drive toward “Logan Pass” and do our standard post-drive imaging so we can see our new surroundings. On sol 979 ChemCam has a few calibration observations of targets on the rover, and then Mastcam has an overnight observation of Phobos as it is eclipsed by Mars. The idea of this observation is to take pictures of Phobos when it is illuminated by the sun, and then when it is illuminated just by light passing through Mars’ atmosphere, and compare them to figure out how much dust is in the atmosphere.

-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 976-977: Onward to Jocko Butte]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

With our weekend contact science done, it’s time to hit the road again. The sol 976 plan includes some final Mastcam mosaics of the interesting outcrops that we have been studying, plus a Mastcam multispectral observation of the target “Albert” that ChemCam zapped over the weekend. After that, we will drive about 60 m, to a location west of “Jocko Butte”. After the drive we have Navcam imaging to allow us to choose targets near where we stop, as well as take pictures looking back from where we just were, to view the outcrops from a different angle. Overnight, the SAM instrument will measure the amount of noble gases in the atmosphere. On sol 977, ChemCam will do some “passive” (no laser) atmospheric observations, Navcam will watch for clouds over Mt. Sharp, and Mastcam has a small 1x4 mosaic. 

-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 973-975: Albert, Bigfork, and Charity]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

by Ken Herkenhoff

MSL is in a good position for contact science observations on an interesting outcrop of sedimentary rock, so the rover will be busy this weekend!  We had to change the timing of the arm activities a bit to optimize the illumination of MAHLI targets, so it was a busy morning for me as SOWG Chair but I'm happy with the way the plan turned out.  On Sol 973, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe nearby targets "Albert" and "Charity," the RMI will image a distant target named "Empire," and Navcam will search for clouds and dust devils.  Overnight, CheMin will dump the remaining drill sample from one of its cells and measure the cell to confirm that the dump was successful.  The arm will be deployed on Sol 974 and used to acquire a small MAHLI mosaic of "Bigfork," then place the APXS on the same target for an overnight integration.  The rover will wake up earlier than usual to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere at 8 AM on Sol 975 by imaging the sun.  Later that morning, ChemCam and Mastcam will perform more atmospheric measurements, and the 100-mm Mastcam will be used to image some distant rock targets.  In the afternoon, the Dust Removal Tool (DRT) will be used to brush the dust off of "Albert" and take MAHLI images of the brushed spot.  The APXS will then be placed on the DRT spot for an overnight integration. 

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 971-972: Approaching outcrop]]> Wed, 29 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

by Ken Herkenhoff

This morning the MSL science team used all of the available data to decide whether to approach one of the nearby outcrops or drive away.  Ultimately we decided to approach the closer of the large outcrops in front of the rover to set up for contact science this weekend.  Planning is still "restricted," so we planned two sols of activities today.  ChemCam and Mastcam will observe a nearby rock named "Helena," and the RMI will image a distant target dubbed "Lolo" on the morning of Sol 971.  Then MAHLI will acquire a set of images of the wheels to track wear before the rover drives a few meters toward the selected outcrop.  Overnight, CheMin will analyze the sample cell that was recently emptied to confirm that no material remains in the cell.  On Sol 972, ChemCam will acquire calibration data, and Navcam will search for clouds.  Finally, SAM will perform an instrument maintenance activity overnight.

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 969-970: Studying Mt. Shields]]> Mon, 27 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

Interesting stratigraphy at Mt. Shields

Our drive on sol 967 covered almost 90 meters, putting us in front of some interesting stratigraphy at "Mt. Shields", an outcrop along our drive down "Logan's Run". In the sol 969-970 plan, we have lots of Mastcam and ChemCam studying the outcrop. On sol 969, Mastcam has a 24x2 stereo mosaic and a 6x3 stereo mosaic of parts of Mt. Shields. Then, on sol 970, ChemCam has a bunch of standalone RMI “z-stacks” of targets “Flathead”, “Fern”, “Ginsight”, and “High_Park”. A z-stack is when we take a bunch of measurements at different focus positions. This allows us to merge multiple images to make sure the entire field of view is in focus. ChemCam also has a LIBS measurement of “Hungry_Horse”, which is accompanied by a Mastcam image of the same target. Finally, Mastcam will attempt to take some nighttime images of an eclipse of Mars’ moon Phobos, which can be used to infer how the amount of dust in the martian atmosphere varies with altitude.

 

-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 966-968: More Driving]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

by Ken Herkenhoff

The rover drove 32 meters on Sol 964, to a position that gave us a good view of the terrain ahead and outcrops of interest.  So a longer (~90 m) drive is planned for Sol 967 after ChemCam and Mastcam observe nearby targets dubbed "Pablo" and "Pauline" on Sol 966.  Mastcam, Navcam and REMS will also observe the atmosphere.  I'm MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead today, and planned the usual post-drive images.  CheMin will acquire calibration data overnight, and ChemCam will make calibration measurements on Sol 968. 

In other news, the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity tactical team planned Sol 4000 today!  A drive is planned this weekend for Opportunity 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[Sols 964-965: Logan’s Run? Or just a short dash…]]> Wed, 22 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 963 Blackrock

By Lauren Edgar

Although we had planned a drive of up to 48 m towards “Logan’s Run” on Sol 963, the drive ended early after only 17 m due to the detection of a nearby hazard (a large rock).   This was the first time in a while that we were using autonav for driving.  The good news is that the hazard was detected, and the events are understood.   It just means that we have a little further to go before we can start calling this a run…

Today’s plan includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations on the large rock, now named “Blackrock.”  Then we’ll continue driving towards the west.  The plan also includes post-drive imaging for targeting, and some ChemCam atmospheric observations.  I was supposed to be the Geology Science Theme Lead tomorrow, but we’re entering restricted sols (meaning that the data from today’s drive won’t be down in time for planning tomorrow), so we decided to plan two sols today, and will not do any planning tomorrow.   Let’s hope this next run goes more smoothly!

--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 963: Making a run for it]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 962 MAHLI wheel imaging

By Lauren Edgar

After cruising through Artist’s Drive, Curiosity set her sights on the next pass, known as “Logan Pass.” However, the science team realized that there’s an interesting outcrop to west of “Logan Pass,” which may help us to understand how these rocks relate to the section that we investigated at the Pahrump Hills.  So we decided to make a run for it, and take a quick trip over to “Logan’s Run” to image those rocks first.

The plan today is to drive further to the west, and to do some additional MAHLI wheel imaging to monitor wheel wear.  Prior to the drive we’ll acquire ChemCam and Mastcam observations on the target “Apple” – a small rock of variable tones.  After the drive, we’ll acquire standard post-drive imaging for context and future target selection.  The plan also includes several Mastcam nighttime observations of Phobos and Deimos to investigate the opacity of the upper atmosphere and aerosol size.

--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 962: MAHLI wheel imaging]]> Mon, 20 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

by Ken Herkenhoff

The Sol 960 drive went as planned, for a total of over 102 meters!  The rover has driven far enough since the last full set of MAHLI images were acquired that it's time to take another full set to look for more wheel wear.  So my focus today as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead was on planning wheel images.  MARDI images are typically taken at each wheel-imaging position as well, but all of these images were well planned strategically, so it was an easy day for me.  Wheel images will be taken at 4 spots, separated by short drives to ensure that all of the wheel surfaces can be examined.  This takes enough time that there wasn't much room for other observations:  Sol 962 begins with Mastcam mosaics of distant outcrops and images of the Sun and sky.  After the rover stops moving, Mastcam and Navcam will  take pictures of the terrain near the new rover position, and the Left Navcam will image the sun just before it sets to measure the distribution of dust in the atmosphere.

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 959-961: Daughter of the Sun]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

Navcam view toward Mount Sharp from the sol 958 end-of-drive location

The short drive on sol 958 was a success, placing us at the top of a small ridge, facing an outcrop dubbed “Daughter of the Sun”. The plan for sol 959 is to do some ChemCam and Mastcam of targets “Gold” and “Espinoza”, followed by several Mastcam mosaics. The biggest mosaic will be a 26x2 stereo mosaic looking toward Logan Pass. We also have a 7x3 stereo mosaic of “Daughter of the Sun” and a 17x1 mosaic of “West Ridge”.

On sol 960 we will do a long drive after which DAN will make some measurements and we will take our standard post-drive images. Then on sol 961 ChemCam will take some calibration measurements and then Mastcam and Navcam will make several atmospheric observations.

Speaking of taking pictures of the sky, we’re starting to get data down from our observation of the Mercury sunset transit. So far all we have are thumbnails, but it looks like the full-resolution images are going to be spectacular!

-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 958: Officially 10k!]]> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

HiRISE image showing the rover's current location.

The Sol 957 drive went well, and the rover has officially driven 10 kilometers! (Last week I announced that we had reached 10k, but that was 10k measured by how many times the wheels have spun, not how far across the surface of Mars the rover has gone. Now, no matter how you measure it, we’ve gone 10,000 meters!).

Unfortunately, we stopped with a ridge in front of us, blocking the view. So the plan for sol 958 is to do a short drive to get on top of the ridge so we can see farther to the south, allowing us to plan more effectively for future drives (and enjoy the scenery). Before the drive, we have some ChemCam passive observations of the sky to measure the composition of the atmosphere. There is also a Mastcam mosaic of an outcrop to the east, plus a high-resolution Mastcam observation of the target “Libby”.

After the drive, we will do some standard Navcam and Mastcam imaging so we can do targeted science in our immediate surroundings, plus a ChemCam calibration target observation, and a routine Mastcam “clast survey” image to measure the rocks and pebbles near the rover.

-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 957: Limited Downlink]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

by Ken Herkenhoff

MSL drove about 65 meters on Sol 956, then took some nice images of the path ahead.  As we continue to drive each sol, acquiring images of the terrain around us is important to the science team.  We don't want to miss anything!  So the Sol 957 plan includes ChemCam RMI and Mastcam images of outcrops to the south and a Mastcam image of the windblown ripple right in front of the rover.  After the drive, the usual imaging to support future planning will be acquired, but we don't expect to receive all of the data in time for tactical planning tomorrow.  The volume of data expected to be relayed to Earth via MRO is smaller than usual on Sol 957, which was the only significant problem I had to deal with today as SOWG Chair.  Sometimes more data are relayed than expected, in which case we'll get additional images of the terrain in the vicinity of the rover. 

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 956: Mercury Transit]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

Rear hazcam view of the rover's tracks as we leave Shoshone quad.

With the last portion of the Telegraph Peak sample delivered to SAM and analyzed by APXS, we are ready to keep driving. In the sol 956 plan, there is a quick science block in the morning, to allow the rover to take a couple of Mastcam pictures of nearby boulders called “Waucoba” and Navcam pictures to complete the 360 degree panorama of the area. After that, we have a couple hours of driving, which should take us into a new “quad” on our map of the landing site. After the drive, Curiosity will take standard post-drive images to allow us to make targeted observations in the sol 957 plan.

Later in the day there’s another science block, which will be spent making some ChemCam observations of the onboard calibration targets. Also in that science block, Mastcam will take a 3x2 mosaic in the direction of sunset. The reason for these images is that we have a special observation at sunset: Mastcam will be taking pictures of Mercury as it transits the sun, right before the sun dips below the crater rim. This will be the last chance to watch Mercury pass in front of the sun from Gale crater until 2024! Even without a transit occurring, I always like rover sunset pictures, so I’m looking forward to seeing how these observations turn out!

-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 953-955: Dumping Telegraph Peak]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

Curiosity's arm above the pile of dumped Telegraph Peak powder

Our sol 952 drive went well, and we’re very close to crossing over into a new “quad” of the map that was made before landing (meaning we will get a whole new bunch of target names to choose from!). On Saturday the team planned for a lengthy ChemCam focus test on sol 953, where we collect images of the target “Eaton Canyon” at different times of day to check the influence of temperature. We also planned a nice big 20x2 Mastcam mosaic of “Mount Saint Mary”. On sol 954, we delivered some of the “Telegraph Peak” drill sample that we have been carrying with us to the SAM instrument, and dumped the rest out on the ground to be analyzed by APXS overnight.

Today we are planning for sol 955. We have Mastcam and a ChemCam RMI of the “Eaton Canyon” target again, as well as Mastcam and passive ChemCam of the dump pile. Mastcam also has a small mosaic in the expected drive direction and a larger 10x1 mosaic of “Tucki Mountain.” Then, shortly after sunrise on sol 956 Navcam will be taking an atmospheric measurement movie and Mastcam will measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere by looking at the sun.

 

-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 952: Longer drive]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

by Ken Herkenhoff

MSL drove 18 meters on Sol 951, as planned, putting the rover in position to image the terrain ahead and plan a longer drive on Sol 952.  The total "wheel odometry" for the MSL mission is now over 10 km!  But the total traverse distance is still less than 10 km, because the wheels sometimes slip while driving, and the wheel odometry does not take slippage into account.  So we're not quite ready to celebrate like the Mars Exploration project did when Opportunity recently completed the first extraterrestrial marathon

The focus of scientific observation planning has been to get good images of the terrain as we continue driving, and before the Sol 952 drive the ChemCam RMI and Mastcam stereo cameras will image various targets near and far.  Almost 100 meters of driving is planned, with the rover initially going to the right around the ripples shown here.  After the drive, in addition to the normal images of the terrain near the rover, the Left Mastcam will acquire a full 360-degree panorama.  It was an easy day for me as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead, with only the normal post-drive images in the plan.

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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