Sol 69 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Pushing Data15 October 2012
The command sequences prepared for Sol 68 were not received by MSL due to a problem with a radio transmitter at a Deep Space Network ground station. But enough data were received from earlier sols that we were confident that we could resume scooping on a new site, where contamination was not seen in close-up MAHLI images. So the Sol 69 plan includes some of the activities we intended to perform on Sol 68, plus scooping and documentation imaging of the new site. I was MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead, so was busy making sure that we planned the MAHLI images we need, working with the rover planners to optimize the plan.
About halfway into the Sol 69 planning process, we learned that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) went into "safe mode." MRO has been in safe mode several times during its mission, and has recovered every time, so we expect that the orbiter will recover quickly. But it reminds us how much MSL depends on the orbiters--we will not be able to use MRO for data relay for at least a couple days. While we can still receive MSL data through Mars Odyssey, the data volume is typically greater via MRO. And it is possible to receive data directly from MSL to Earth, but data volumes are even lower. So we hope that the MRO project will be able to understand and recover from this anomaly quickly.