Astrogeology Science Center

Sol 14 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: ChemCam Team Rocks!

20 August 2012
Having completed the SOWG Chair shifts assigned to me over the past 4 days,
I didn't have to get up before dawn this morning.  After trying
(unsuccessfully) to sleep in, I went straight to the ChemCam room at JPL to
see how the first Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectrometer (LIBS) data looked.
Fortunately, everything we planned yesterday worked well, and the ChemCam
team was ecstatic about the results:  a better spectrum than expected, and
Remote Microscopic Imager (RMI) pictures taken before and after the LIBS
shots showing where on the rock the laser hit.  What a great day for the
ChemCam team!  More Information.

I was hoping to spend more time looking at RMI data and catching up on
other work today, but ended up having to prepare a presentation on the plan
for characterization of the Mastcam cameras.  We didn't have time to fully
test all of the capabilities of Mastcam before launch (too much other
testing to do), so we'll have to take a bunch of Mastcam images of Mars to
determine how best to focus the cameras and compress the data, among other
things.  The Principal Investigator of Mastcam, Mike Malin, has not been
feeling well, so fellow team member Jim Bell and I volunteered to prepare
and give a presentation at the daily "science discussion" meeting this
afternoon.  Jim is more familiar with the Mastcam experiment than I, but he
was on shift as Science Uplink Representative today and couldn't attend the
science discussion.  So I gave the presentation and answered a few
questions about how and when the Mastcam characterization will be done,
hopefully in the next few days.

Meanwhile, the local Flagstaff newspaper, the Arizona Daily Sun, ran an
article about the adverse effects that the cuts to NASA's fiscal 2013 Planetary Science budget would have on the USGS Astrogeology team if they are enacted by Congress. As described in the article, the outlook for Astrogeology is not very good, but the article is accompanied by a picture of me smiling happily. So a few of my colleagues asked my why I was smiling. The picture was taken while I was in Flagstaff last Monday, and apparently the photographer didn't know how it would be used, because he asked me to smile as I recalled the recent successful landing of MSL.  I guess he should have take some pictures of me looking depressed just in case, but I'm hopeful that Congress will recognize that the Mars program is a source of great national pride and restore NASA's Planetary Science budget. Anyway, I'm enjoying being involved in an exciting rover mission while I can.