USGS Astrogeology Science Center Astrogeology News http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news News about current and upcoming space missions, USGS gelogic products and historical exhibits en-us <![CDATA[Sol 1584: Touch and go at Frost Pond]]> Wed, 18 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1583 Navcam Frost Pond

On Sol 1583 Curiosity drove 16 m, which set us up for touch-and-go contact science today.  I was the GKOP again, and it was a fun day of planning contact science and remote sensing.  The plan starts with a short APXS integration on the target “Frost Pond,” (seen in the middle of the above Navcam image) to investigate the chemistry of a typical Murray bedrock block.  Then we’ll take a full suite of MAHLI images on the same target.  Later in the plan we’ll acquire a ChemCam observation of “Frost Pond” for comparison, and we’ll also take a Mastcam image for documentation.  We’ll also acquire a small Mastcam mosaic of “Burnt Brook” to investigate some color variations, and a Navcam observation to search for dust devils.  After another drive, we’ll take post-drive imaging for targeting.  Later in the afternoon we’ll use Mastcam to monitor the movement of fines on the rover deck and take a systematic clast survey, and ChemCam will take another AEGIS observation.

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[Sol 1583: Driving and remote sensing]]> Tue, 17 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1580 Mastcam

The 4-sol weekend plan went well, and Curiosity drove ~ 44 m further to the south.  I was the GKOP today and it was a fairly straightforward plan focused on driving and remote sensing. We’re in late slide sols this week, which means that today we started 2 hours later than usual to wait for critical images to come down.  The plan starts with two ChemCam observations of the target “Benner Hill” to investigate the chemistry and color variations around a vein.  We also planned a small Mastcam mosaic to document the bedrock as we continue climbing Mt. Sharp.  Then Curiosity will drive, and we’ll take post-drive imaging for context and targeting.  We’re also planning some workspace imaging to prepare for possible APXS and MAHLI in tomorrow’s plan.  Later in the afternoon ChemCam will take an autonomously selected AEGIS observation, and MARDI will take a systematic image to document the terrain beneath the rover.  We’ll also use Mastcam to monitor atmospheric opacity.  I’ll be on duty again tomorrow, so I’m hoping for some interesting outcrop in the workspace after today’s drive.

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 1579-1582: A 4-sol plan]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0700
After a 25-meter drive on Sol 1578, MSL is surrounded by more dark sand than usual, but there is enough rock exposed that we had a lot of science targets to choose from today.  Due to the US holiday on Monday, we are planning 4 sols today.  The first sol will include only REMS atmospheric observations while the rover recharges after the SAM methane measurement the night before, but the rest of the plan is packed!  Sol 1580 starts with ChemCam passive (no laser) measurements of the sky and calibration targets.  Then we'll use the laser to zap rock targets "Oak Bay" and "Rockport" and take Right Mastcam images of them.  Mastcam will also acquire a mosaic of bedrock exposures just west of the rover, measure dust in the atmosphere, and take another image of the rover deck.  Later that afternoon, ChemCam and Right Mastcam will observe disturbed sand at "Kennebec," an undisturbed ripple called "Spruce Top," and bedrock targets named "Traveler" and "Mars Hill."  Right Mastcam will also acquire a 3x1 mosaic of a more distant outcrop dubbed "Ogler Point." 

Sol 1581 is dominated by contact science, starting with full suite of MAHLI images of Mars Hill.  MAHLI will also take close-up images of nearby "Camera Hill" and acquire a 3-image mosaic of the layered outcrop target "Small Falls."  The APXS will be placed on Camera Hill for a short integration, then on Mars Hill for an overnight integration. 

On Sol 1582, Navcam will search for clouds and dust devils before the rover drives away.  After the drive, AEGIS will again be used to autonomously select a ChemCam target and acquire data, and MARDI will take another image during twilight.  Finally, the rover will get some well-earned rest overnight.

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 1578: Investigating sedimentary structures]]> Thu, 12 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1577 Navcam Megunticook

Curiosity had a successful drive of 45 m on Sol 1577.  We’re continuing to characterize the Murray formation by investigating changes in composition and sedimentary structures as we ascend Mt. Sharp.  Today’s plan provided another opportunity for touch and go contact science, starting with MAHLI imaging of the “Megunticook” outcrop.  This outcrop shows some interesting textures, as seen in the above Navcam image.  After MAHLI imaging of the outcrop, we’ll acquire ChemCam LIBS on the same target.  Then Mastcam will be used to document the outcrop and look for changes in texture, as well as to provide some stereo data for structural measurements.  After a ~35 m drive, Curiosity will take post-drive imaging for context and targeting.  The plan also includes an overnight SAM experiment to investigate methane in 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[Sol 1577: Another touch and go]]> Wed, 11 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0700
MSL drove almost 30 meters on Sol 1576, stopping in a location with a nice exposure of bedrock in the arm workspace.  MAHLI's optics look clean, so we planned a full suite of MAHLI images and a short APXS integration on a bedrock target named "Mansell Mountain."  Fitting the remote sensing observations we wanted, along with the contact science and a ~46-meter drive, into the Sol 1577 plan was a challenge.  But the tactical team did a great job, working together to put together an excellent plan.  After the contact science is completed, ChemCam and Right Mastcam will observe an odd cobble called "Ames Knob" and a bedrock target dubbed "Day Mountain."  Left Mastcam will acquire a 2-image mosaic of the bedrock slab in front of the rover, and Right Mastcam will take an image of the Sol 1576 AEGIS target and a 4x1 mosaic of a layered exposure named "Appleton Ridge."  After the drive and the post-drive imaging needed to plan Sol 1578 activities, Navcam will acquire a panorama and search for dust devils and clouds.  It's been a busy 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 1576: Arm fault]]> Tue, 10 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0700

MSL planning started 2 hours later than usual today because the Sol 1575 data needed for planning weren't expected until almost 10 AM PST.  Unfortunately, the news was not good:  An arm fault prevented the MAHLI full suite from completing, leaving the camera close to the surface with its dust cover open.  The remote science and drive that were planned to follow were also precluded.  Fortunately, this fault has occurred before and is well understood, but recovering from the anomaly made for a rather hectic day for me as SOWG Chair!  The first order of business was to get MAHLI into a safe configuration, so the Sol 1576 plan starts with a single MAHLI image to look for evidence of dust on the exposed optics.  Front Hazcam images will be taken before and after MAHLI is retracted from the surface, then Right Mastcam will take a picture of MAHLI's optics, again to look for dust contamination.  Finally, the MAHLI dust cover will be closed and APXS placed on Dorr Mountain for a short integration.  The arm will then be stowed and Right Mastcam will acquire a 5x1 mosaic of a distant mesa named "Lobster Mountain."  ChemCam and Right Mastcam will observe Dorr Mountain and a bedrock target dubbed "Parkman Mountain," and Left Mastcam will take another image of the rover deck to monitor changes in the dust and sand on the deck.  Mastcam will also measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere before the drive is attempted again.  We don't expect as much data as usual in time for planning the next Sol, so we had to carefully prioritize the post-drive imaging, which includes another Navcam stereo pair of the arm workspace.  Later in the Sol, ChemCam will autonomously observe a target selected by the AEGIS software.  Finally, the rover will recharge overnight to get ready for more fun on Sol 1577.

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 1575: Investigating Dorr Mountain]]> Mon, 09 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0700
After a 25-meter drive on Sol 1574, MSL again has bedrock exposed in her arm workspace.  To balance desires to sample the composition of the rocks along the traverse and to make good progress toward the south, contact science and another drive are both planned for Sol 1575.  First, MAHLI will acquire a full suite of images of a knobbly bedrock target named "Dorr Mountain."  Then the arm will be stowed to allow ChemCam to observe the same target and for the Right Mastcam to acquire a 5x2 mosaic of the Dorr Mountain area.  Navcam will search for dust devils before the drive begins.  After the drive, the arm will be unstowed to allow Navcam stereo imaging of the arm workspace, in anticipation of another "touch and go" plan tomorrow.

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 1572-1574: New diagnostics]]> Fri, 06 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0700

MSL drove nearly 17 meters on Sol 1571, to a location with bedrock outcrops in the arm workspace.  So the weekend plan includes lots of arm work as well as remote observations.  On Sol 1572, MAHLI will take images of the REMS booms to diagnose recent problems with the wind sensors.  Some of the wind sensors on one boom have not functioned since landing, and sensors on the other boom have been acting up lately.  Later that afternoon, MAHLI will take a couple images of a yellow/red color boundary at "Greenstone" and a full suite of images of a yellow bedrock target named "Isle Au Haut."  The APXS will then be placed on Isle Au Haut for an overnight integration.  Early on the morning of Sol 1573, Navcam will search for clouds and Mastcam will measure the amount of dust in the air by imaging the Sun and the distant crater rim.  These dust measurements will be repeated at two other times of day later that sol.  Later that morning, ChemCam will acquire passive (no laser) observations of its calibration target.  Then the arm will go to work again to perform new diagnostic tests of the drill feed mechanism, to help us understand whether the drill feed stall is more sensitive to rotary-only or percussive drilling.  The test data acquired to date indicate an intermittent problem with the internal brake within the motor that feeds the drill forward and backward relative to the rest of the turret.  Fortunately, we are able to do everything except drilling while the investigation continues, but the team has decided not to try again to drill at Precipice, and to continue driving up the flank of Aeolis Mons ("Mount Sharp"). 

After the drill tests, ChemCam will perform some more calibration activities, and acquire LIBS data on Greenstone and a bedrock exposure called "Birch Harbor Mountain."  The Right Mastcam will then image these targets and bright vein targets dubbed "Tarrantine" and "Flying Mountain."  On Sol 1574, ChemCam and Right Mastcam will observe Isle Au Haut before the rover drives away.  After the drive, the arm will be unstowed and Navcam will take a stereo pair of images of the arm workspace to set us up for possible contact science on Sol 1575.  It will be another busy weekend for our intrepid rover!

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 1571: Leaving Old Soaker]]> Thu, 05 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0700
The investigation of Old Soaker continues to go well, so we're planning to drive away on Sol 1571.  But first, ChemCam and Right Mastcam will observe darker bedrock patches named "Gilley Field" and "Fresh Meadow" and a dark clast called "North Bubble."  Mastcam will also acquire a multispectral set of images of a dark spherule dubbed "Greening Island" before the drive.  After the drive, the arm will be unstowed to allow Navcam and Left Mastcam to take pictures of the area in front of the rover to aid planning for this weekend.  Navcam will search for dust devils and clouds, then the rover will sleep overnight and recharge her batteries. 

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 1570: Finishing up at Old Soaker]]> Wed, 04 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0700
The focus of the Sol 1570 plan is to finish our work at Old Soaker.  The APXS will be retracted and the arm moved out of the way for ChemCam and Right Mastcam observations of Huguenot Head and ChemCam measurements of a dark grey patch called "Valley Cove" and another observation of Deep Cove.  Navcam will search for dust devils, then the rover will briefly rest and recharge before deploying the arm for more contact science.  MAHLI will acquire a full suite of images of Valley Cove and a couple close-up images of "Fresh Meadow."  Fresh Meadow is a new target near Eagle Lake, which was not well centered on the grey material of interest in this area.  The APXS will be placed on Fresh Meadow for a short integration, then on Valley Cove for an overnight integration.  If all of this goes well, we will be ready to drive away from Old Soaker on Sol 1571. 

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 1569: Back to daily planning]]> Tue, 03 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0700

The MSL operations team is back at work after the holiday break, planning Sol 1569.  The activities planned for the holidays executed well, so we are proceeding with the investigation of the ridge/fracture patterns at Old Soaker.  First, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe the ridges at "Beech Mountain" and Navcam will search for clouds.  Then MAHLI will take close-up images of a grey patch named "Eagle Lake" and a full suite of images of Beech Mountain.  MAHLI will also acquire images from 25 cm and 5 cm of an area without ridge patterns dubbed "Hodgdon Pond" and another interesting feature called "Huguenot Head," as well as a single oblique image of "Squeaker Cove" from 15 cm.  The APXS will be placed on Beech Mountain for a short integration, then on Eagle Lake for an overnight integration.  Lots of good contact science to start the new year!


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 1566-1568: Preparing for the holidays]]> Wed, 21 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1553 Mastcam Old Soaker

Today was our last tactical planning day before the team takes a break over the holidays.  But that doesn’t mean that Curiosity will be resting!  A group of science team members and operations staff assembled an 8-sol plan that will execute over December 22-30, focused on environmental monitoring and change detection.  Today’s tactical planning was aimed at creating a 3-sol plan that will take place over New Year’s, from December 31- January 2.  When we return to normal operations on January 3, we’ll dive right back in to a campaign investigating some interesting fracture patterns at “Old Soaker,” seen in the Mastcam image above.

Today’s 3-sol plan starts with Mastcam multispectral observations of the targets “Old Soaker” and “Schooner Head” to assess their red and gray color variations.  This is followed by a Navcam observation to search for dust devils.  Then ChemCam will target “Moore Harbor” and “Northeast Harbor” to look for variations in chemistry.  In the afternoon, we’ll use MAHLI to investigate the grain size and sedimentary structures at “Bar Island,” Thompson Island,” and “Mill Field,” and overnight we’ll let APXS integrate on “Mill Field” and “Thompson Island.”  On the second sol, we’ll move the APXS to “Bar Island” for an overnight integration, along with a SAM electrical baseline test.  On the third sol we’ll retract the arm to enable additional remote sensing of the workspace, including ChemCam on “Goose Cove,” “Deep Cove,” and “Dix Point,” a small Mastcam mosaic, and some environmental monitoring observations.  It should be a busy week for Curiosity, and I’m looking forward to seeing all of the exciting data that she’ll collect while the team is enjoying a break.  It’s been quite the year for our rover: we have drilled six holes, performed two scoops, driven 3 km, and climbed 85 vertical meters!  I can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring. This will be the last blog until January 3 when we resume normal operations.  Until then – may your sols be merry and bright, and safe travels as you rove into the New Year!

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 1555-1557: Lots of Targets!]]> Mon, 19 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0700

Our short drive over the weekend went well, and we are now at a new location with plenty of science targets to choose from. It’s been quite a while since we had a plan with this many new target names! The Sol 1555 plan starts off with a remote sensing science block. Navcam and Mastcam both have atmospheric observations, and then ChemCam will analyze four targets: “Somes Sound”, “Schoodic Peninsula”, “South Bubble”, and “Schooner Head”. Mastcam then has a bunch of mosaics covering the targets “Old Soaker”, “Squid Cove”, “Sieur de Monts”, “Goat Trail” and “Bald Peak”.

Later on Sol 1555, we are planning a short “bump” to position the rover for possible contact science. After the bump, we’ll collect some post-drive images to help with targeting. On Sol 1556 Navcam has an atmospheric observation to watch for clouds, and on Sol 1557 we have a routine engineering diagnostic activity for the Hazcams, but otherwise Sols 1556 and 1557 are pretty quiet.

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 1552-1554: Diagnostics, science, and a drive]]> Fri, 16 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Mastcam image from sol 1550

The engineering team is still hard at work diagnosing our drill issues, but in the meantime we are still getting good science done. The Sol 1552 plan starts off with ChemCam observations of the targets “Hall Quarry” and “Long Porcupine”. Mastcam will document those targets and then do a multispectral observation of “Western Head”. Mastcam also has an image of the rover deck, and Navcam will watch for dust devils. There will also be some drill diagnostics on Sol 1552. 

 After sitting in the same spot for so long, it will be nice on Sol 1553 when we retract the arm and drive to an interesting area about 10 meters away. After the drive we are planning post-drive imaging and a MARDI image of the ground under the rover. Sol 1554 is an untargeted sol, with Navcam and Mastcam atmospheric observations.

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 1550-1551: More drill testing]]> Wed, 14 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0700

Use of the arm and driving remain off limits while the drill continues to be diagnosed.  The 2-sol plan starts with ChemCam and Right Mastcam observations of bright vein targets dubbed "Bear Brook" and "Canon Brook."  MARDI will take images during both morning and evening twilight to look for changes due to winds.  Remote sensing on Sol 1551 will include ChemCam, Navcam and Mastcam observations of the sky and Sun at a couple times of day, and a set of ChemCam calibration activities. 

Meanwhile, the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco is going well, with lots of interest in Mars rover results, especially from Curiosity.  About 26,000 geoscientists are attending the meeting, with speeches today by California Governor Jerry Brown and U. S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell.  It's been an exciting week so far!

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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