Archive for December, 2018

ELaNa19 Liftoff. Credit: Trevor Mahlmann

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket launched NASA’s ELaNa-19 mission from Launch Complex 1 on Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, on December 16, 2018 local time.

NASA Venture Class Launch Service flight of the CubeSat Launch Initiative Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) XIX mission launched the following cubesats: Ceres and STF-1 (NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center), CubeSail (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), CHOMPTT (University of Florida), NMTSat (New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology), DaVinci (North Idaho STEM Charter Academy), Rsat (U. S. Naval Academy), ISX (California Polytechnic State University), Shields-1 (NASA Langley Research Center), ALBus (NASA Glenn Research Center) and SHFT-1 (NASA JPL).

NASA ELaNa-19 mission fairing encapsulation.
Credit: Rocket Lab

The mission, designated Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa)-19 , took place just over a month after Rocket Lab’s last successful orbital launch, ‘It’s Business Time.’ Rocket Lab has launched a total of 24 satellites to orbit in 2018.

The next Rocket Lab Electron vehicle will be on the pad at Launch Complex 1 in January 2019.

For video of launch, go to: https://youtu.be/KZwLJMPuos8

 

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s InSight Mars lander has produced new Sol 18: Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) imagery, acquired on December 15, 2018.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The robotic arm-mounted, Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) is surveying the lander surroundings in preparation for deployment of surface science gear.

InSight touched down on Mars at 11:52:59 a.m. PT (2:52:59 p.m. ET) on Nov. 26, 2018.

The lander plunged through the thin Martian atmosphere, heatshield first, and used a parachute to slow down. It fired its retro rockets to slowly descend to the surface of Mars, and land on the smooth plains of Elysium Planitia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

An annotated image of the surface of Mars, taken by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on May 30, 2014. The annotations — added after InSight landed on Nov. 26, 2018 — display the locations of NASA’s InSight lander, its heat shield and parachute.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

 

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left A photo taken on Sol 2259, December 14, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2259 tasks.

“May the (drill) force be with us!” reports Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist at Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland

A recent Curiosity rover drive around to the north side of “Rock Hall” in was successful, placing the robot at a lower tilt and with room in the workspace to place all the piles of sample dropped on the surface (purposely!) in the aftermath of drilling.

“Rock Hall” (right) and “Cluny Hill” bedrock slabs from Curiosity’s Sol 2256 parking spot. Photo obtained by rover’s Mastcam Left Sol 2256 December 11, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Observations of Rock Hall gave scientists confidence that they were at a promising red Jura target for drilling, Minitti adds.

Trio of targets

Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) rasters across three different targets on Rock Hall, Minitti points out, indicated the slab had chemistry and spectral character consistent with red Jura.

Curiosity Navcam Left A photo acquired on Sol 2259, December 14, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Mastcam images focused on the slab demonstrated that while it was dusty in flatter areas, and covered with scattered, loose gray and red pebbles in others, the slab had the red, shiny appearance we associate with red Jura,” Minitti explains. “This placed us farther down the path toward drilling red Jura than we had been with any of our previous sites!”

A new plan for the rover focused on characterizing the would-be drill target.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 2259, December 14, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Suitable for drilling?

The loose pebbles on the Rock Hall slab precluded use of the Dust Removal Tool. On the schedule was acquisition of ChemCam, Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) observations of the unbrushed drill target itself.

“We will also push the drill into the target, called a pre-load test, to assess the suitability of the Rock Hall block for drilling. Whether or not we see a mark from the drill in the target after the pre-load test will give us some idea of the hardness of the drill target. The science team will scrutinize the mark from the drill (or lack thereof) carefully as a predictor of the likelihood of drilling success,” Minitti points out. “We also had time to gather data from other targets of interest both on and around the Rock Hall slab.”

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) product performed on Sol 2259, December 14, 2018. MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The plan called for acquiring MAHLI and APXS data on “Corrieshalloch Gorge,” a slightly less dusty (and thus redder) portion of the Rock Hall slab. Also, on tap was shooting “Cluny Hill,” a target on a rubbly, heterogeneous neighbor of Rock Hall, with ChemCam.

Candidate iron meteorite

Mastcam multispectral observations of “Gometra” will give scientists further insight into this candidate iron meteorite target, of which there has been surprisingly many in this part of the “Vera Rubin Ridge.”

The robot will image “Marsco,” a small sand-filled depression that might represent a small impact crater, with Mastcam.

Navcam will scan the skies for clouds and dust devils and Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) passive and active observations for H will ping the ground under Curiosity’s new parking spot, Minitti concludes.

Curiosity Navcam Left A photo acquired on Sol 2259, December 14, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Navcam Left A photo acquired on Sol 2259, December 14, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Virgin Galactic’s First Spaceflight on December 13th 2018.
Credit: Virgin Galactic/Quasar Media 2018

Today, Virgin Galactic conducted its fourth powered test flight and first space flight of its commercial SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity.

The achievement has been recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) who announced today that early next year they will present pilots Mark Stucky and Frederick Sturckow with FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings at a ceremony in Washington DC. Sturckow as a four-time Space Shuttle pilot will become the only person to have been awarded NASA and FAA wings.

View from the heights.
Credit: Virgin Galactic/Quasar Media 2018

Mach 2.5

Today’s flight also involved the NASA Flight Opportunities Program which flew four space science and technology experiments on VSS Unity, making this Virgin Galactic’s first revenue generating flight.

A 60-second planned rocket motor burn propelled VSS Unity to almost three times the speed of sound and to an apogee of 51.4 miles.

After a Mach 2.5 supersonic re-entry into the atmosphere, which utilized Unity’s novel “feathering” configuration, the pilots guided the spaceship down to a smooth runway landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Remaining test flight program

Said Richard Branson, the entrepreneurial backer of the project: “Today, for the first time in history, a crewed spaceship, built to carry private passengers, reached space. Today we completed our first revenue generating flight and our pilots earned their Commercial Astronaut Wings,” he said.

Richard Branson (center) and Virgin Galactic’s first two astronauts.
Credit: Virgin Galactic/Quasar Media 2018

“We will now push on with the remaining portion of our flight test program, which will see the rocket motor burn for longer and VSS Unity fly still faster and higher towards giving thousands of private astronauts an experience which provides a new, planetary perspective to our relationship with the Earth and the cosmos,” Branson said in a Virgin Galactic press statement.

Credit: New China TV

China Central Television (CCTV) reports that the country’s Chang’e-4 lunar probe has successfully decelerated near the Moon Wednesday

This is a vital step forward leading to the spacecraft’s attempt to make the first-ever soft landing on the farside of the Moon, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced.

Chang’e-4 Moon lander and rover.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Elliptical lunar orbit

CCTV reports that after flying about 110 hours from the Earth, an engine on the probe was ignited when it was 80 miles (129 kilometers) above the lunar surface, in line with instructions sent from a control center in Beijing at 16:39. Then the probe slowed and entered an elliptical lunar orbit with the perilune (low point) at about 62 miles (100 kilometers) at 16:45, said CNSA.

The probe, including a lander and a rover, was launched by a Long March-3B carrier rocket last Saturday from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

Candidate landing region of China’s Chang’e-4 lander within Von Kármán crater in SPA basin.
Credit: Jun Huang, et al.

Communication link testing

As the rocket was able to send the probe into orbit precisely as planned, CCTV reports, the control center only adjusted the probe’s orbit once on Sunday and also canceled two pre-planned orbit trimmings before the near-Moon deceleration, according to CNSA.

Next, the control center will adjust the probe’s orbit around the moon and test the communication link between the probe and the relay satellite “Queqiao,” which is operating in the halo orbit around the second Lagrangian (L2) point of the earth-moon system. The relay satellite was launched last May.

“Afterward, the control center will choose a proper time to land the probe on the farside of the Moon,” CCTV reports.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left A photo acquired on Sol 2257, December 12, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is wrapping up Sol 2257 tasks.

Reports Brittney Cooper, an atmospheric scientist at York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: “Even on Mars, where every second of Curiosity’s sol is planned, things don’t always go quite as expected.”

Curiosity Rear Hazcam Right A image taken on Sol 2257, December 12, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In this case, a planned drive of the robot stopped at the mid-drive point.

Bump to target

“We had to decide whether to finish the remainder of the previously planned drive, or bump towards a red Jura candidate and potential drill target,” Cooper adds. “After some thoughtful discussion, we decided to make the most of where Curiosity ended up, and planned a bump toward the nearby target “Rock Hall.”

“Rock Hall” is seen in this Curiosity Navcam Left A image acquired on Sol 2257, December 12, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Targeted Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Laser-induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) capabilities and Mastcam multispectral observations were then planned to characterize Rock Hall and confirm if it’s a member of the red Jura, Cooper explains.

 

Pre-load test

On the schedule is a bump (short drive) to have Curiosity set up for drilling and in position to test the hardness of Rock Hall with a drill pre-load test and ChemCam LIBS tomorrow, if need-be.

“Unfortunately, the amount of pebbles on top of Rock Hall,” Cooper points out, “will likely prevent our ability to use the Dust Removal Tool (DRT) on the surface, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be drilled.”

In addition to the targeted Mastcam and ChemCam activities, a 360° Navcam dust devil survey rounded off a one-hour science block to try and catch some late morning dust devils, Cooper concludes.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

New roadmap

Meanwhile, a new Curiosity traverse map through Sol 2256 shows the route driven by the Mars rover through the 2256 Martian day, or sol, of its mission on Mars (December 11, 2018).

Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up. The scale bar is 1 kilometer (~0.62 mile).

From Sol 2255 to Sol 2256, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 29.78 feet (9.08 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 12.35 miles (19.88 kilometers).

The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Curiosity Navcam Left A image acquired on Sol 2257, December 12, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 2256, December 11, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Navcam Left A photo acquired on Sol 2256, December 11, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2256 tasks.

The hunt for red Jura continues reports Rachel Kronyak, a planetary geologist; University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

“After a successful weekend of activities and driving, we were hopeful that we would wake up on Sol 2256 and be ready for contact science and drilling,” Kronyak adds. “Unfortunately, Mars had other plans; similar to Friday’s planning, our workspace turned out to be just as fractured and unsuitable for drilling, so onward we go in search for a drill target elsewhere (again)!”

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left A image acquired on Sol 2256, December 11, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Third time’s the charm?

The first two attempts at finding drillable red Jura were unlucky, so this time, Curiosity will try its luck and head towards a third candidate drill location, called “Region C.”

“Fingers crossed that the third time’s the charm,” Kronyak says.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2255, December 10, 2018. MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The plan for Sol 2256 includes a nice long science block before the rover’s drive. During the science block, the robot’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will collect data on two targets: “Sandy Haven,” a small soil patch, and “Tarness Haven,” a block of reddish outcrop in front of the rover.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2255, December 10, 2018. MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Line of sight

“We’ll also acquire a Mastcam multispectral mosaic looking ahead towards Region C to assess for color variations that will help us determine where the best red Jura location for drilling may be,” Kronyak points out. “The environmental group will also be acquiring some Navcam observations to monitor the atmosphere; these include a line of sight image and a dust devil movie.”

After the science block, Curiosity will drive towards Region C. Halfway through the drive Curiosity will stop for some Mastcam and Navcam imaging to assess the upcoming terrain.

Parking spot

“Once we get to our final parking spot, we’ll take some additional images to assess the ground in front of us,” Kronyak concludes. “Together, these mid- and post-drive images will inform whether we drill at Region C or continue on in the search for red Jura. Stay tuned!”

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo taken on Sol 2255, December 10, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Tactical decisions

In an earlier report, Mariah Baker, a planetary geologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, obtaining higher resolution images of the exposure of red Jura will help the team determine if it could be drilled next week.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo acquired on Sol 2256, December 11, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

“Making these tactical decisions requires a lot of quick thinking; the team must weigh immediate scientific priorities with long-term goals, and must try to determine the best potential drill target with limited data,” Baker notes.

“We never know exactly what we will find when we arrive at a new site, so the best we can do is use long distance imaging and lessons learned from previous sites to make an educated decision on where to send the rover next,” Baker concludes. “Hopefully this plan will put us in a good position on Monday to either drill the new outcrop or continue on our strategic path.”

China’s Chang’e-4 Moon lander – farside bound
Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Screengrab Inside Outer Space

 

China’s adventurous mission to the farside of the Moon attained its second orbit trimming on Sunday afternoon

The Chang’e-4 lunar probe was launched in the early hours of Saturday from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

If all goes well, the lander/rover will touch down on the farside of the Moon for the very first time, reportedly early next month.

Ground control

As reported on China Central Television (CCTV):

“We have just completed the second orbit modification for Cheng’e-4 and then we will conduct the third one to ensure that it can precisely enter the lunar orbit and prepare for a soft landing of the probe,” said Li Peng, an assistant engineer with Kashgar Observation and Control Station.

In the next month, ground controllers will invoke important movements of Chang’e-4 during the flight, such as orbit correction and near-Moon braking, and adjusting the final attitude of the probe through a relay satellite launched last May named “Queqiao” to ensure a successful lunar landing.

“In the 110-hour-long orbit transfer from the Earth to the Moon, we will seize every second to upload the orbit parameters in time and ensure the third orbital transfer to be successful,” said Liu Qing, an engineer in Kashgar Observation and Control Station.

Chang’e-4 Moon lander and rover.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Rugged terrain

“Most of the farside of the Moon are covered with high mountains, impact craters and lunar craters. It is difficult to find a large and flat area. This requires that we must be more accurate in fixing the landing site,” said Sun Zezhou, chief designer of Chang’e-4.

As reported on CCTV, the rugged terrain of the Moon has not only increased the difficulty in locating the best landing point, but also will affect the probe’s judgment of its distance to the lunar surface and the relative velocity. As a result, a special design in the navigation control of the probe was adopted.

Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Screengrab Inside Outer Space

Day/night operations

There are some differences between the December 2013 Chang’e-3 lander/rover mission and Chang’e-4.

“The Chang’e-3 landed on the Moon following a parabolic path, but our Chang’e-4 will primary land vertically,” said Sun. To assure day/night operations, Chang’e-4 is equipped with a heating supply system, aimed to power the equipment.

“Based on the supply of heat energy, we also try to use thermoelectric effect to generate power for the electronic equipment,” said Sun.

The probe is expected to make the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the Moon within 30 days, and will undertake a variety of tasks including conducting surveys on the terrain and landforms.

Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Screengrab Inside Outer Space

Communication issues

CCTV notes that this first time farside landing may encounter some communication difficulties.

“If it lands on the farside of the Moon, there might be a delay on the measurement and control [systems] after it connects to the relay satellite,” said Li Benqi, deputy director of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

“We are not sure whether the delay will cause troubles to the landing and image transmission. This [mission] will help us accumulate more experience for future lunar exploration,” Li said.

Radio astronomical observations

One of the main tasks the probe will conduct is its investigation into the radio environment of the farside of the Moon, the first time that low-frequency radio astronomical observations have been tested.

“Especially by making using of the clean electromagnetic environment on the far side of the moon, the probe will achieve observation of low-frequency radio ranging from 0.1 to 0.4 megahertz for the first time,” said Yu Guobin, a spokesman for the Chang’e-4 lunar exploration project.

In addition to its panoramic camera, lunar penetrating radar and topographic camera, the probe is also equipped with a low-frequency radio spectrometer to help it better detect the low-frequency signals.

Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Screengrab Inside Outer Space

“The (farside of the) Moon can well shield the Earth’s own low-frequency radiation and create a better environment with low frequency and noise. This could help the probe detect the low-frequency signals from the sun more effectively,” said Sun, the lunar probe’s chief designer.

In addition, China has promoted international cooperation in its lunar exploration program, with four scientific payloads in the Chang’e-4 mission developed by scientists from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.

For video views of the Chang’e-4 project and launch, go to:

https://youtu.be/cGp7WySaVW4?list=PLpGTA7wMEDFjz0Zx93ifOsi92FwylSAS3

https://youtu.be/58r_OTXn6i4

 

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left A photo acquired on Sol 2255, December 10, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is wrapping up Sol 2255 duties.

Reports Abigail Fraeman, a planetary geologist at NASA/JPL in Pasadena, California, even though they looked promising, the red Jura rocks scientists had hoped to drill are too fractured to drill safely.

Curiosity Navcam Right A photo taken on Sol 2255, December 10, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“The texture of these rocks is actually fairly typical of the red Jura rocks, so finding one that is drillable may be challenging,” Fraeman notes. “But we’re not giving up right away!”

The science and engineering teams identified another promising rock candidate just a few meters away. The plan calls for the robot to “bump” towards that area to take a closer look.

Curiosity Navcam Left A image acquired on Sol 2255, December 10, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Geological properties

Curiosity science team members have worked with the rover drivers to evaluate the geological properties of the terrain the robot will cross during the planned drive. Doing so is to ensure the vehicle doesn’t drive over any hazards.

“We will take some time to do science before the drive,” Fraeman adds. In the morning of sol 2252, the plan called for a long remote sensing science block where Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and Mastcam observations were to be collected of targets named “Knochan Crag,” “Skatie Shore,” and “Conan Mains.”

Also on tap were Mastcam stereo images of additional potential drill targets in the area named “Dunecht” and “Stronecraigs.”

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 2254, December 9, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

Blowing dust

After the drive on sol 2253, the plan called for an observation of the sky using ChemCam in passive (no laser) mode, along with additional environmental science measurements that include some taus, sky survey, crater rim extinction image, and dust devil searches.

“Dust has certainly been blowing around in Gale Crater lately,” Fraeman reports. An image of the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) calibration target was much cleaner than an image of the same target taken a few weeks ago when the planet-wide dust storm had just started to abate (Sol 2161), Fraeman concludes.

Images of the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) calibration target and comparative dust levels.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Navcam Left A image acquired on Sol 2255, December 10, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Traverse map

Meanwhile, a recently released Curiosity traverse map through Sol 2250 shows the route driven by Curiosity through the 2250 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (December 06, 2018).

Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up. The scale bar is 1 kilometer (~0.62 mile).

From Sol 2222 to Sol 2250, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 36.80 feet (11.22 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 12.33 miles (19.84 kilometers).

The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2248, December 2, 2018. MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2250 duties.

Susanne Schwenzer, a planetary geologist at the Open University, Milton Keynes, in the U.K., reports that on sol 2250 the rover is to finish observations on and around the Highfield drill hole and drive to an area where red Jura is exposed.

Change detection

“The dataset Curiosity collected at the Highfield location is very informative,” Schwenzer notes, as it includes observations that especially benefit from the longer stay, such as the change detection imaging experiments.

Curiosity Navcam Left A photo taken on Sol 2248, December 2, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“In one of the images, the sand movements became very apparent by the drill hole already starting to fill in – not a planned change detection, but an interesting one nonetheless,” Schwenzer adds. “It is just a few sols since we drilled, yet sand has drifted in and parts of the drill fines have blown away. We were once more reminded, just how active Mars is!”

Drill site context

Recently, Curiosity was set to make the two last Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) observations in the Highfield area: one measurement will be taken of the Highfield dump pile, and one of a vein target called “Niddrie.”

“Those will help us to better understand the drilled sample itself, and also the geologic and geochemical context of the drill site. Mastcam will document the activities as usual,” Schwenzer points out.

ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo acquired on Sol 2249, December 3, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Next drill site

“Then we will head off to the next potential drill site to find a good place to drill the red Jura,” Schwenzer says. The team has extensively surveyed the area, and Curiosity is heading to a site called “Lothian.”

“After the drive, Curiosity will gather as much information as she can by doing a large workspace Mastcam mosaic,” Schwenzer reports. Other activities are Navcam post drive imaging and use of AEGIS, the Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) software.

“On to new adventures,” Schwenzer concludes, “red Jura, here we come!”

Griffith Observatory Event