Sols 1027-1029: Resuming tactical operations26 June 2015
Mars has passed through solar conjunction, and reliable communication with the spacecraft at Mars is possible again. As planning started this morning, we were still waiting for more data to be relayed by the orbiters to confirm that MSL is ready to resume science planning, but proceeded with tactical planning so that we would be ready when the data arrived. The Sol 1027 plan starts with Mastcam observations of several targets that were imaged just before solar conjunction, to look for changes caused by winds or maybe Marsquakes. Mastcam will then look at the sun to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, Navcam will search for dust devils, and ChemCam/Mastcam will observe nearby targets "Piegan" and "Wallace." On Sol 1028, the arm will be used to take MAHLI images of the rocks and soil in front of the rover from various vantage points, to measure changes in their reflectance with observation geometry ("photometry"). After dusk, APXS and MAHLI will measure 3 spots on a rock called "Big Arm" that was imaged by MAHLI during the day before solar conjunction. The nighttime images, using MAHLI's LEDs for illumination, should nicely complement the daytime images of the rock. Finishing off the weekend plan, on Sol 1029 ChemCam will acquire some calibration data and Mastcam will take a stereo mosaic of the outcrops to the east of the rover.
As SOWG Chair today, I was a bit worried about planning so many activities on the first day of tactical planning in a few weeks, but the team hit the ground running and did a great job. Early this afternoon, we got word from the downlink team that the data acquired during conjunction show that the rover is in good health, and that we were therefore "go" for planning. MSL is back in action!
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.