Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 1839, October 8, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now in Sol 1841.

Mark Salvatore, a planetary geologist from the University of Michigan in Dearborn, reports that a communications snafu has created an irksome problem in the rover’s performing of scientific duties.

“When you take a step back and think about all of the things that must go right in order to perform scientific investigations on the surface of Mars, it’s hard to believe that we ever get things accomplished! It also means that seemingly minor issues can lead to significant delays and complications when it comes to developing science plans, commanding the rover, and gathering the collected data,” Salvatore notes. “Today was one of those instances when a seemingly minor issue here on Earth significantly influenced our abilities on Mars.”

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B image taken on Sol 1840, October 9, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Disruption

The problem occurred when communications and data transfer was disrupted between Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the team that commands the majority of the high resolution cameras, including the robot’s Mastcam, MAHLI, and MARDI. The disruption took place as the science team was gathering to select targets of interest and to populate a block of time dedicated to science with observations and analyses.

Curiosity Rear Hazcam Right B image acquired on Sol 1840, October 9, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Salvatore adds that “this often happens to me when I’m trying to watch my New York Mets play baseball, so I know just how frustrating it can be!”

Scientists are in a “restricted” planning mode this week, so the science plan will cover two Mars days.

Two targets

That plan calls for Curiosity to analyze two targets in front of the rover, “Bokkeveld” and “Buffalo Spring,” using the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) active laser system to assess the makeup of these two targets.

“Buffalo Spring has a nodular texture, not unlike some interesting targets observed on Vera Rubin Ridge over the last few weeks. Bokkeveld is a “typical” bedrock target, which will help us to understand just how different Buffalo Spring is relative to more typical basaltic targets,” Salvatore points out.

Drill diagnostics

Curiosity will undergo additional drill diagnostics to assess all of the engineering work to get the drill capabilities back to the science team.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, acquired this image on Sol 1838, October 7, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Also on tap is using the robot’s Navcam cameras to identify and monitor local clouds. Then the ChemCam will make an automated measurement of a nearby rocky target as well as its titanium calibration target. Curiosity’s Navcam cameras will image the surroundings and search for local dust devils.

No driving

The rover’s Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) is slated to be programmed to perform a second analysis on the previously collected Ogunquit Beach sediment sample and retrieve the data the following day, Salvatore adds.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1839, October 8, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

There is no drive scheduled during the rover’s two-day plan. Therefore, the science team will have the same view on Wednesday as they do today. “Hopefully on Wednesday,” Salvatore concludes, “we will be able to utilize all of the imaging capabilities of the rover, finish analyzing the local surroundings, and continue to make forward progress towards the top of Vera Rubin Ridge!”

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