Sols 835-836: Driving to Whale Rock

10 December 2014

Cross-bedding at Whale Rock


After a successful investigation of the Chinle outcrop, Curiosity is ready to move on to the Whale Rock outcrop.  Today we are planning two sols, and on the first sol we’ll finish up a few last targeted observations at Chinle.  The plan includes a ChemCam passive observation of the target Goldstone (“passive” means that we don’t fire the laser, we just passively collect the spectrum of the target), along with a Mastcam image to document the target.  We’ll also acquire a ChemCam z-stack on the target Cucumongo to test out a new template for ChemCam activities, and to look for any changes in chemistry compared to other observations at Chinle (z-stack means that we’ll acquire data from several different focus positions).  There’s also a Navcam activity to search for dust devils and monitor the atmosphere. 

After we complete our morning science observations, Curiosity will attempt a rather difficult drive toward Whale Rock.   Curiosity was last at Whale Rock on Sol 796, and captured this tantalizing image of cross-bedding.  We want to go back to Whale Rock to investigate the small-scale textures and composition of the outcrop using the instruments on the rover’s arm (MAHLI and APXS).  But in order to do that, we need to get close to the rocks, and the terrain looks quite challenging.  One way to work around the difficult approach is to sample a float rock (a block that has broken off from the main outcrop and might be in a more accessible position).  Due to the difficult terrain, it might take us a few drives to get into a good position.

After the drive we’ll acquire Navcam and Mastcam images, which we’ll use to select interesting targets and plan future drives.  On the second sol Curiosity will also acquire a Navcam observation to monitor the atmosphere above Mt. Sharp.  Fingers crossed for a good drive!

By Lauren Edgar

--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.