Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B image acquired on Sol 1895, December 5, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Now in Sol 1895, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is slated to begin another “action-packed” science investigation for several days on Vera Rubin Ridge.

That’s the report from Mark Salvatore, a planetary geologist from the University of Michigan in Dearborn.

Curiosity spent last weekend analyzing the chemistry of several interesting targets.

Doglegging left

The robot has spent the last several weeks progressing largely to the south, Salvatore notes, with the science team starting to command Curiosity to head more towards the east, doglegging left along the nominal Mt. Sharp Ascent Route (MSAR).

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 1894, December 4, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Over the next few days, the plan is for Curiosity to investigate what appears to be a small eroded impact crater as well as an erosional window into some visually distinct bedrock outcrops,” Salvatore explains.

Before reaching these targets, Curiosity will conduct some additional investigations of the ridge and the local blocky materials.

Terrain targets

Curiosity Mastcam Left image acquired on Sol 1894, December 4, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Sol 1895 was slated to have a 1.5 hour block of time dedicated to remote observations of the surrounding terrain.

Curiosity will begin with some Mastcam color images of two interesting targets in front of the rover: a blocky exposure of fractured bedrock (named “Mapedi”) and a nodular piece of bedrock (named “Koonap”).

Afterwards, the rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will make active laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) measurements on three bedrock targets (named “Naute,” “Mzamba,” and “Nauga.” These targets are different in tone than other dusty materials in front of the rover.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 1895, December 5, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Curiosity’s Mastcam is set to image and document this target area.

Bulk chemistry

Following these measurements, Salvatore adds that Curiosity’s arm will be unfurled and the robot will acquire high-resolution Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) images of the Mzamba target in addition to an overnight Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) analysis to derive the rock’s bulk chemistry.

“The next day, before heading towards the eroded impact crater, Curiosity will stow her arm in preparation for the roughly one-hour drive to the east,” Salvatore points out. “Following her drive, Curiosity will undertake the standard post-drive imaging sequence in addition to acquiring a MARDI image to document the terrain immediately under the rover’s belly.”

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo acquired on Sol 1894, December 4, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


Ultra marathon

Salvatore notes a random fact of the day: One of the ChemCam targets is named “Naute,” which is the name of a dam in Namibia along a tributary of the Fish River. Namibia’s Fish River Canyon, he says, is the largest canyon in Africa, and is a widely visited tourist attraction for its scenic views. The Fish River Canyon is also home to an annual ultra marathon (100 kilometers distance) that travels through the difficult terrain along the margins of the river.

“As of today,” Salvatore concludes, “Curiosity only has another 82.174 kilometers to traverse before completing her own ultra marathon!”

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