Sols 980-982: Dodging Sand, Updating ChemCam

8 May 2015

The Sol 978 drive stopped after going only a couple meters instead of the expected ~19 meters because Curiosity detected that its wheels were slipping in the sand. The rover periodically takes pictures of its surroundings while driving to make sure that it is actually moving forward and its wheels are not just spinning in place. This was a lesson learned years ago when the Opportunity rover got itself stuck in a sand ripple by spinning its wheels. Curiosity currently is in no danger of getting stuck: in the weekend plan we will just back up slightly and drive around the worst of the sand.

On Sol 980, before we drive, ChemCam and Mastcam will analyze two targets, “Silver Valley” and “Snowslip” and Navcam will watch for clouds above Mt. Sharp. Then on sol 981, Mastcam will take some pictures of the crater rim and the sun to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere. After that comes the drive and our standard post-drive images so we can see our new surroundings. Mastcam will also take a 7x2 mosaic of Logan Pass right after driving.

In the afternoon of Sol 981, ChemCam will turn on so that its software can be updated. I’ve really been looking forward to this update, which will allow ChemCam to automatically focus using its camera, bringing us back to almost-normal operations!

On sol 982 there won’t be much activity, just some maintenance activities for REMS.

By Ryan Anderson

-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.