Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2172, September 15, 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 carrying out Sol 2175 duties.

Curiosity’s latest drill attempt was not successful, reports Vivian Sun, a planetary geologist at NASA/JPL in Pasadena, California. “Who’d have thought that ridge rocks could be so hard.”

Drilling into the target rock, “Inverness,” the rover equipment reached only 4 millimeters into the rock.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo acquired on Sol 2172, September 15, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Next drive

Scientists have been discussing where to drive the robot next.

“The grey Jura member is a top priority for sampling and understanding the geologic history of the Vera Rubin Ridge, so we felt it was imperative to try again,” Sun adds. “We ultimately decided to return to the “Lake Orcadie” region, where we previously attempted to drill on Sol 1977.”

Curiosity Mastcam Right image acquired on Sol 2172, September 15, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

In the past attempt, Curiosity was able to reach 10 millimeters depth using rotary only, “so we are hopeful that this next attempt will reach sampling depths with the new percussion-enhanced drill capabilities,” Sun explains.

Before driving off, Curiosity wrapped up at the Inverness site with Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) spectral measurements to characterize the composition of the drill tailings and the mini drill hole.

Possible meteorite targets

“We additionally targeted ‘Clune,’ a gray Jura bedrock, with ChemCam to continue our documentation of compositional heterogeneities in bedrock. Some science team members also identified two possible meteorite targets, so we obtained a ChemCam measurement of ‘Stoneyburn’ and a Mastcam multispectral observation of ‘Rockend’ to see if they have meteorite compositions,” Sun explains.

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo taken on Sol 2172, September 15, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

New drill site

On Sol 2173, the plan called for a long drive of over 210 feet (65 meters) to get Curiosity close to the new drill site in the Lake Orcadie region.

A Sol 2174 plan also included ChemCam calibration and sky observations, as well as taking Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) twilight imagery to document the terrain beneath the rover.

“If all goes well,” Sun concludes, “we should be at our next drill site in no time!”

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