Curiosity Mastcam Right image of drill hole taken on Sol 2058, May 21, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


Now in Sol 2060, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is back in gear in its drilling functions.

Reports Mark Salvatore, a planetary geologist at the University of Michigan in Dearborn: “This past weekend, Curiosity successfully drilled into the ‘Duluth’ rock target, generating a beautiful pile of drill tailings! This is a very exciting time for us on the rover team,” he notes, “who have been waiting for quite a while to successfully drill into a target and to ingest samples into the rover’s analytical instruments.”

Before Mars researchers are able to use all of the rover’s instruments they must first characterize the nature of the materials that were collected during the drill activities.

Collected sample

Back on Monday, the science team planned for the characterization of three small portions of the collected sample that were to be dropped onto the surface in front of Curiosity so that images of these materials could be taken at high resolution.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2059, May 22, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

While these efforts were not primarily driven by science — the rover engineers were more interested in the nature of the sample and whether there would be any difficulties in delivering the sample to Curiosity’s instruments – the science team, Salvatore adds, “didn’t dare miss an opportunity to make some cool measurements of the new materials in front of us!”

Sand ripples

On the Monday plan was multispectral imaging of the drill target and some regular visible imaging of a small patch of sand ripples named “Esko.” The drill target observation was requested to help determine how the interior of the Duluth target differs from its surface, Salvatore reports, while the imaging of Esko was used to see if there is any motion of the Esko ripples over time.

Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) device was then used to passively image the drill hole, and then to actively characterize the chemistry of the drill hole and drill tailings using its laser instrument.

The rover’s Mastcam and ChemCam imaging capabilities were also used to acquire high-resolution images of the small test portions throughout the plan.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 2059, May 22, 2018. Note laser shots within the drill hole.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Long awaited measurements

The next day’s science plan had two Mastcam observations – one of the small portions and one of the Esko ripples, “both of which were designed to identify whether the wind had modified these surfaces at all. Environmental measurements were also made on the second day to search for both cloud motion and dust devils,” Salvatore adds.

“We’re all very excited to continue on with drill activities and to make some long awaited measurements,” Salvatore concludes. “Stay tuned for more updates as the week progresses!”

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