Sol 27 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Compression Testing2 September 2012
The Sol 26 drive went well, and the images taken after the drive showed some interesting outcrops right in front of the rover. The focus of the Sol 27 plan is primarily the first sampling of Mars' atmosphere by the big SAM instrument, so there wasn't much time to do anything else. Now that ChemCam is working again, the top priority is to acquire better observations of its calibration target, and 77 minutes were allocated to do that. But when we saw the new outcrop target, the science team wanted to take pictures and zap it with ChemCam's laser. So Steve Squyres, the Mineralogy Science Theme Group Lead for today, asked the Tactical Uplink Lead (Pauline Hwang) whether she would be willing to consider adding more time to the plan for additional scientific observations. Steve is the PI of the Athena science payload on the Mars Exploration Rovers, and because Pauline used to work on MER, they already know each other. Steve's plea was well enough received that Pauline agreed to give the science team 40 more minutes to work with. There was much rejoicing, and Mastcam and ChemCam observations of the outcrop were added to the plan. When I left JPL a couple hours ago, it appeared that they would be approved and included in the commands to be sent to MSL early tomorrow morning.
I wasn't scheduled in a tactical role today, but I couldn't resist spending most of my day at JPL. MSL mission operations are just too much fun to miss! Because I didn't have to focus on today's planning as much, I was able to catch up on some other tasks, including processing new MARDI images to determine how much they can be compressed and still preserve the details needed for geologic interpretation. I also looked at some older ChemCam RMI images that were taken in the MSL testbed (a nearly identical copy of the real rover at JPL) to test various types of image compression. I had been meaning to get this done long ago, but was too busy with other work. So far it looks like we will be able to reduce the size of these images without significantly degrading them. We must make the most of the precious bits we receive from MSL through the Mars orbiters, so I need to complete this analysis soon.