USGS Astrogeology Science Center News http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news News about current and upcoming space missions, USGS gelogic products and historical exhibits en-us <![CDATA[Downtime for Astrogeology Web Services 2/17-2/20]]> Sun, 19 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0700 All the web services for the USGS Astrogeology Science Center will experience downtime over the weekend for machine room maintenance.  Potential downtime will be from Friday night (2/17) until Monday night (2/20).

Affected sites include:  

  • astrogeology.usgs.gov
  • pilot.wr.usgs.gov
  • planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov
  • isis.astrogeology.usgs.gov
  • planetarymapping.wr.usgs.gov
  • all tools and services including POW and MAP2

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<![CDATA[Sols 1614-1616: Delayed planning]]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0700
The Sol 1612 drive went well, and there is a nice bedrock block in the arm workspace.  We received a bit more data than expected before planning started, but not enough to finalize drive plans and contact science targets.  As expected, we received more data during planning, including color images of the arm workspace that were very useful in selecting contact science targets.  The late arrival of the necessary data caused delays in the standard uplink planning timeline, but the tactical team did a great job and we have an excellent weekend plan.  It's good to see REMS extended blocks back in the plan after the successful software upgrade. 

On Sol 1614, ChemCam and Right Mastcam will observe bedrock targets named "Columbia Falls," "Spider Lake," and "Loon Stream."  Mastcam will measure dust in the atmosphere and acquire a 3x3 mosaic of a layered block dubbed "Aroostook River."  Late that afternoon, MAHLI will image the REMS UV sensor and acquire mosaics of another bedrock target named "Chain Lakes" and of Spider Lake.  The APXS will then measure the chemistry of the Spider Lake area at overlapping locations to look for spatial variations in composition.  Early the next morning, Mastcam will again measure dust in the atmosphere and Navcam will search for clouds.  Later on Sol 1615, more drill diagnostic tests are planned, then the APXS will be placed on its calibration target for an overnight integration.  A short drive to the dark dunes south of the rover is planned on Sol 1616, followed by unstowing the arm and post-drive imaging.  Another busy (sometimes hectic) day for me as SOWG Chair!

by Ken Herkenhoff

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.

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<![CDATA[Sols 1612-1613: Planning challenges]]> Thu, 16 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0700
After a 23-meter drive on Sol 1611, MSL again ended up in an area with many bedrock blocks partly covered by dark sand.  We're planning two sols today to get a head start on planning for the holiday weekend, with the first sol strategically planned to allow the "touch and go" option.  But there's a ridge about 30 meters ahead that we can't see over, and we would like to be able to drive up onto it on Sol 1612 to allow a drive past it to be planned this weekend.  There isn't enough time before the "decisional" telecommunications opportunity to fit both contact science and a 30-meter drive into the plan, so we had to pick one of these two options.  Based on images taken from orbit and by the rover, lots of bedrock is exposed at the crest of the ridge 30 meters away, so we picked the longer drive at the expense of contact science today, hoping that the rover will be in a better place for contact science this weekend.  Before the drive, ChemCam and Right Mastcam will observe a bright/dark boundary on a block at the left side of the image above (dubbed "Frenchville"), and Right Mastcam will acquire a 2x2 mosaic of another block named "Third Lake."  After the drive, we're planning fewer images to support weekend planning because the expected downlink data volume is much less than usual.  We therefore spent more time than usual carefully prioritizing the post-drive images for downlink, and may not receive all of the data we need to plan contact science and a drive this weekend. 

Later in the afternoon of Sol 1612, ChemCam will again use AEGIS to autonomously select a LIBS target and acquire a 3x3 set of chemical measurements.  The REMS software upgrade went well, so REMS environmental monitoring is being planned again today!  On Sol 1613, ChemCam will acquire passive calibration data, and Navcam will search for dust devils and clouds.  Finally, the rover will sleep overnight in preparation for what we hope will be a busy weekend plan.  The issues described above made for a challenging day for me as SOWG Chair!

by Ken Herkenhoff

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.

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<![CDATA[Sol 1611: Patch Mountain]]> Wed, 15 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0700

MSL drove almost 27 meters on Sol 1610 to a location with several potential targets, so the planning team spent some time discussing priorities.  A dark patch of bedrock, appropriately named "Patch Mountain" was chosen for ChemCam, Right Mastcam, and MAHLI observations.  The MAHLI imaging was moved after the ChemCam observation so that the LIBS impact spots would be visible.  An additional MAHLI image was added to the standard full suite, to provide a 3-image mosaic from 5 cm.  Then the rover will drive again, and take images afterward to enable planning more activities on Sol 1612.  Just before sunset, Navcam will search for dust devils and REMS will complete the second part of their flight software update. 

by Ken Herkenhoff

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.

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<![CDATA[Sol 1610: Finishing up at Ireson Hill]]> Tue, 14 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0700
The activities planned for Sol 1609 went well, and MAHLI focus data indicate that high-resolution images of Perry were successfully acquired.  So we're ready to drive away from Ireson Hill after some more remote sensing of the rocks in front of the rover.  The Sol 1610 plan starts with some more drill diagnostic tests, then the arm will be moved out of the way for remote sensing.  ChemCam and Right Mastcam will observe a bedrock exposure named "Fogelin" that shows subtle color variations, and Mastcam will acquire multispectral sets of images of yesterday's contact science targets Perry and Spurwink.  As more Sol 1609 data were returned during planning this morning, the Mastcam team noticed that the Right Mastcam image of Edmunds was blocked by the arm, so this activity will be repeated on Sol 1610 with the arm out of the way.  Mastcam will also measure dust in the atmosphere before the drive and standard post-drive imaging.  Later in the afternoon, Navcam will search for dust devils and clouds, and ChemCam will acquire some calibration data.  REMS will take a break from the usual environmental monitoring to update their flight software. 

by Ken Herkenhoff
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.
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<![CDATA[Sol 1609: Passagassawakeag and other challenges]]> Mon, 13 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0700
MSL drove a little over 9 meters on Sol 1608, to get the vehicle closer to Ireson Hill and the dark blocks that have rolled down from the top of the hill.  Two of these blocks are within reach of the arm, but both are challenging targets.  Even the name chosen for the dark block at the left side of the image above is difficult: "Passagassawakeag."  It's pointier that we would like for contact science, and the other dark block, dubbed "Perry" (at lower right in the image above), is close enough to the rover that there is a risk of collision with the arm.  Complicating the plan further, the best time to take MAHLI images of these targets is late in the afternoon, when they won't be shadowed by the arm.  But the last chance to send data to Earth in time to make them available for planning tomorrow is earlier in the afternoon, making it difficult to return all of the data needed to respond to a possible arm fault.  Therefore, we decided to acquire a single MAHLI image of Passagassawakeag from a safe distance of 5 cm before the critical communications opportunity, and send it in case the full suite of MAHLI images of Perry planned later in the afternoon is not successful.  We would then be better able to plan contact science on Perry tomorrow if necessary. 

The Sol 1609 plan starts with ChemCam and Right Mastcam observation of Passagassawakeag, a typical Murray bedrock exposure named "Spurwink," and a more distant dark block called "Wassataquoik" (another tongue-twister).  Then the Right Mastcam will acquire a 3x1 mosaic of the Perry area, single images of rocks near the top of the hill named "Gonic," "Kineo," and "Edmunds," followed by an 8x4-frame mosaic of the right side of the hill. Just before the MAHLI imaging of Perry, a full suite of MAHLI images, plus extra stereo frames, is planned on Spurwink.  After all of the MAHLI activities have been completed, the APXS will be placed on Perry for a pair of short integrations, then placed on Spurwink for an overnight integration.  Of course we are hoping that this complicated plan goes well!

by Ken Herkenhoff

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.

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<![CDATA[Sol 1604-1605: Toward Ireson Hill]]> Fri, 10 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Navcam view of Ireson Hill

On Sol 1604 we wrapped up at the first stop of this second phase of the Bagnold Dune campaign. The plan started off, as usual for the dune campaign, with a pair of Mastcam images that were then repeated throughout the day to look for changes. ChemCam had an RMI of the target “Mapleton” and then Mastcam had a whole series of images of nearby sand formations. Once that was taken care of, we decided to drive back toward Ireson Hill so that we can take a closer look at some of the geology there. The drive was about 55 meters, followed by post-drive imaging.

In the 1605 plan, ChemCam’s laser is back in action with an analysis of the target “Carys Mills”. Mastcam will take a supporting image of the same target, as well as a small mosaic of the target “Calderwood”. We will then continue driving around the east side of Ireson hill toward our targets of interest, ending at a rock that may be part of the hill’s capping layer.

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

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<![CDATA[Sols 1606-1608: Studying Ireson Hill]]> Fri, 10 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0700

Our drive on Sol 1605 was successful, putting us in a good position for weekend science on the northeast side of Ireson Hill. The sol 1606 plan starts off with ChemCam observations of “Quimby,” which appears to be a piece of cap rock that has tumbled down from the top of the hill, and a bedrock target “Quoddy”. Mastcam will take an image to document the ChemCam dataset that was automatically collected at the end of the Sol 1605 drive, as well as a mosaic of an area called “Castine”. APXS will then do an overnight analysis on “Quoddy” and “Pogy”.

Sol 1607 is not too busy: the main activity is a short science block with atmospheric observations using Navcam, ChemCam, and Mastcam. Sol 1608 makes up for it though. It starts off with ChemCam of the targets “Cushing” and “Bucksport”. Mastcam will document those two targets and then do some multispectral observations of “Quoddy”, “Quimby”, and “Jemtland”. We will wrap up Sol 1608 with some workspace images and a MARDI image of the ground under the rover.

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

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<![CDATA[Sol 1603: Finishing at Stop 1]]> Thu, 09 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0700

Yesterday’s plan went well, and ChemCam has run all of the planned diagnostics and will be back in action tomorrow! Similar to yestersol’s plan, the Sol 1603 plan begins with a pair of Mastcam observations which will be repeated throughout the day to look for any changes in the nearby sand. Mastcam also has multispectral observations of targets “Matagamon,” “Scarboro,” and “Flume Ridge”. Next, Mastcam has a mosaic of some interesting sand ripples. We will wrap up the early afternoon science block with Mastcam atmospheric observations and a Navcam dust devil movie.

After that, MAHLI will take a look at “Matagamon”, “West Branch”, “Flume Ridge”, “Dry Wall” and “McKenny”. That will be followed by an engineering test with APXS and an overnight APXS measurement of the target “Flume Ridge”. If all goes according to plan today, that will wrap up our observations at this location and we will move on to stop #2 of this second campaign to study Bagnold dunes.

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

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<![CDATA[Sol 1602: Bagnold Dunes 2: Electric Boogaloo]]> Tue, 07 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Navcam view of Bagnold dunes

The weekend plan went well and today we begin the second half of the campaign to study the “Bagnold Dunes”. The Sol 1602 plan starts off with two Mastcam mosaics of the dunes which will be repeated several times later in the sol to watch for changes. Navcam also has a dust devil monitoring observation in the morning science block. Around midday, Mastcam will do a couple of measurements to determine the amount of dust in the atmosphere, and ChemCam will do an active LIBS observation of the soil target “Mapleton” as the final step in the diagnostics that will allow it to return to active duty! In addition to change detection, Mastcam has a stereo image of some bedforms at “Flume Ridge,” a 9x2 mosaic of the interesting nearby dune field, and a 3x2 observation in support of the campaign to watch for dust devils. Later in the sol, MAHLI will have a field day, observing the targets “Scarboro”, “McKenny”, “Matagamon”, “Flume Ridge”, “The Forks”, and “West Branch”. The rest of the sol involves repeating the Mastcam change detection observations, going all the way until 7:30 in the evening.

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

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<![CDATA[Sols 1600-1601: Celebrating Sol 1600 with “Whiskey” and “Rye”]]> Fri, 03 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1598 Navcam

Wow, 1600 sols on Mars – that is quite an accomplishment!  And we’re at an exciting point in the traverse as we approach the next segment of the Bagnold Dunes.  Curiosity’s weekend plan includes more contact science and driving as we continue to investigate the Murray formation and prepare for observations at the active sand dunes.  This Saturday is a soliday (a day without planning to allow Earth and Mars schedules to sync back up), so we’ll transition from a late slide sol today to early slide sols next week.  The plan begins with additional imaging of “Ireson Hill” to document the bedding geometry and cap rock from a different viewing position.  We’ll also take a Mastcam tau, a Navcam dust devil movie, and a Mastcam image to monitor the rover deck.  Then Curiosity will acquire MAHLI images of two targets: “Whiskey” and “Rye” (hmmm, perhaps some Sol 1600 celebrations are in order), with a short APXS integration on “Whiskey” and a longer overnight integration on “Rye.”  Both targets were selected to study the stratification and chemistry of the Murray formation here.  On Sol 1601, Curiosity will carry out some drill diagnostics, followed by a drive and post-drive imaging.  We’ll also take a Mastcam 360-degree mosaic, which should be very scenic from this site – looking out over the dunes and capturing features like “Ireson Hill.”  And finally, Curiosity will wake up early on Sol 1602 for a suite of environmental monitoring observations.  Stay tuned for the second investigation of the Bagnold Dunes next week!

By Lauren Edgar 

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the 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.

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<![CDATA[Names Approved for Four Features on Mars: Sibiti, Nia Chaos, Baetis Labēs, and Chrysas Mensa]]> Thu, 02 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Sibiti, Nia Chaos, Baetis Labēs, and Chrysas Mensa. For more information, see the map for MC-18 in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Sols 1598-1599: Imaging Ireson Hill]]> Wed, 01 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1596 Navcam Ireson Hill

The drive on Sol 1596 went well, and Curiosity drove ~21 m to the southwest, providing a great view of “Ireson Hill,” seen in the above Navcam image.  Today’s two-sol plan looks pretty similar to the last.  We’ll start with MAHLI and APXS of the target “Digdeguah” to investigate typical local bedrock with some exposed stratification.  Then ChemCam will continue its recovery activities with an RMI observation of the titanium calibration target.  We’ll use Mastcam to acquire a large mosaic of “Ireson Hill” to characterize the contact and color variations exposed on the south side of this feature.  The team also planned a Mastcam mosaic of the “Allsbury” area to document the contact science target and fracture patterns, as well as a Mastcam tau to characterize atmospheric opacity.  Then Curiosity will drive further to the southwest, and will take post-drive imaging to prepare for more contact science in the weekend plan.  The second sol is devoted to environmental monitoring and a SAM measurement of the atmosphere.

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the 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.

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<![CDATA[Sols 1596-1597: Approaching the dunes for round two]]> Mon, 30 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1590 Mastcam Ireson Hill

Over the weekend, Curiosity drove an additional ~ 26 meters to the southwest, as we prepare for another investigation of the active sand dunes.  We’re still a few more drives away from the dunes, but looking forward to the next campaign.  I was the GSTL today, and we planned some contact science and Mastcam imaging and another drive.  The plan starts with a short APXS integration and MAHLI imaging of “Isleboro” to characterize the composition, grain size, and sedimentary structures exposed in a typical block of the Murray formation.  Then we’ll use Mastcam to document some color variations and stratification at “Parker Bog,” and to assess fracture patterns at “Jim Pond.” We’ll also take a Mastcam image to monitor the deck and characterize the movement of fines.  And ChemCam will continue its recovery activities with a LIBS observation of the titanium calibration target.  Then Curiosity will drive further to the southwest, and acquire post-drive imaging for context and targeting, including an upper tier Navcam frame to prepare for more imaging of “Ireson Hill” (seen in the above Mastcam image from Sol 1590).  The second sol is devoted to environmental monitoring, with Mastcam and Navcam observations to assess dust in the atmosphere and search for dust devils.

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the 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.

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<![CDATA[Sols 1593-1595: Dead River, Misery, and Boil Mountain?]]> Fri, 27 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1591 Navcam Misery

Looks like the team had some fun using the less desirable names for rock targets in today’s plan!  These are all named after rock formations and geologic features from Bar Harbor, Maine.  MSL drove another 8 meters on Sol 1591, and we’ll continue to drive in the weekend plan.  The three-sol plan starts with a few data management activities for Mastcam and MAHLI, and a recovery sequence to restart ChemCam after it has been marked sick.  Then we’ll take some Mastcam mosaics of “Dead River” and “Boil Mountain” to investigate laminations within the Murray formation and provide some context imaging of the “Misery” outcrop.  Then we’ll use MAHLI and APXS to study “Misery” and “Dead River,” with an overnight APXS integration on “Misery.”   On the second sol Curiosity will wake up early for some environmental monitoring observations, including some Navcam movies and Mastcam imaging to assess atmospheric opacity.  We’ll also take another Mastcam mosaic of “Ireson Hill” to document the stratigraphy with long baseline stereo imaging.  The third sol includes additional environmental monitoring, a drive, post-drive imaging for targeting, and preparing for more contact science.  Curiosity will also perform a SAM evolved gas experiment to use the residual derivatization vapor in the sample manipulation system.  I’ll be on duty next week so I’m getting caught up on Curiosity’s activities.  Let’s hope we can leave the “Misery” behind us next week! 

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the 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.

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