Curiosity Navcam Right B image acquired on Sol 2032, April 25, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Mars rover has just started Sol 2034 science duties. The robot is descending Vera Rubin Ridge reports Mark Salvatore, a planetary geologist at the University of Michigan in Dearborn.

“Curiosity is continuing her march to the north and west, descending through the stratigraphic layers exposed in Vera Rubin Ridge and working her way back towards the unit known as the Blunts Point member, just below the ridge,” Salvatore reports. “Curiosity will continue her investigation of each of these stratigraphic layers, filling in all of the details necessary to interpret the geologic history of this region.”

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B photo taken on Sol 2032, April 25, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Local and regional geology

Until then, the rover’s science team is keeping Curiosity busy with additional measurements to better interpret the local and regional geology.

A two-sol plan has been scripted with the robot undertaking a 1 hour and 40 minute science block dedicated to studying the exposed rocky material in front of the rover.

The science block kicks off with Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) measurements of surface chemistry using the onboard laser and spectrometers.

Small impact crater

Salvatore explains that the targets include “Mesabi,” a textured rock towards the left-front wheel, then “Wakemup Bay,” which appears to be in-place bedrock, and finally “Midway,” a long and narrow rock in front of the rover that has potentially been broken apart by the small impact crater (named “Taconite crater”), to the north of Curiosity.

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo acquired on Sol 2032, April 25, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

ChemCam’s high resolution camera will then be used to image a rock on the western rim of Taconite crater (named “Logan”) at very high resolution “to see if it shows any interesting features associated with the impact cratering process itself,” Salvatore adds.

Curiosity’s Mastcam is on tap to be used to image the surrounding area, including all of the ChemCam targets that were analyzed. “In addition, a multispectral image suite will be obtained of Taconite crater’s nearby ejecta field,” Salvatore explains, “as a way to determine whether the composition of the ejecta blocks are at all variable, which may indicate that the subsurface geologic units differ in composition from those closer to the surface. Stay tuned!”

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 2032, April 25, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Drive ahead

Following this science block, Curiosity has a drive scheduled of roughly 157 feet (48 meters to the northwest, “which would result in another 10 meters or so of decreased elevation as we near the Blunts Point member,” Salvatore says.

From that point, standard post-drive imaging activities will then occur, obtaining images of the landscape surrounding the rover for both scientific and engineering purposes, as well as a Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) image of the terrain immediately below the rover’s belly.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 2032, April 25, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Downhill from here

A next sol plan has Curiosity using its automated targeting capabilities to retrieve chemistry measurements of a nearby bedrock target.

“Following a nap and a quick chat with one of the Mars orbiters, Curiosity will then have one additional science block that is dedicated to environmental monitoring, including measuring the atmospheric dust concentration and searching for dust devils. This will then bring us to Friday, when the science team will plan for a weekend of activities and a drive that will have Curiosity once again head downhill,” Salvatore reports.

Minnesota names

At this location in Gale crater, the team is naming targets after locations in northeastern Minnesota. The names chosen recently are perfect to use while we’re still on Vera Rubin Ridge, Salvatore points out, as the Mesabi Range is part of Minnesota’s Iron Range, a series of Precambrian (i.e., old!) sedimentary units that are enriched in iron.

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

“These areas were heavily mined in the early 1900s, and were an important part of Minnesota’s economy at this time. Currently, this area is still being mined for low-grade iron ore known as “taconite” (hence Taconite crater!), a sedimentary rock with significant amounts of iron and other mineral phases,” Salvatore concludes. “Kudos to today’s science team for the relevant names!”

New road map

A new Curiosity road map has been issued.

The map shows the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 2032 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (April 25, 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 2030 to Sol 2032, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 55.62 feet (16.95 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 11.70 miles (18.82 kilometers).

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

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