Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image taken on Sol 2876, September 8, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2977 duties.

Reports Lucy Thompson, a planetary geologist at the University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada:

“As we wait to drop the ‘Mary Anning 3’ drilled sample off to SAM [Sample Analysis at Mars Instrument Suite] (hopefully in the next plan), Curiosity will utilize the time and power to continue monitoring the current dusty atmosphere on Mars, as well as the interesting chemistry of the rock at this location.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Right image acquired on Sol 2874, September 6, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Firing up the laser

Thompson adds that the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument will fire its laser at three targets, “Burgi,” “Woodside” and “Snowy Owl” to continue documenting the variations in element concentrations associated with different layers, colors and nodular/patchy features within the rock at the robot’s location.

“We will also acquire color Mastcam documentation images of these targets and extend the imaging of the workspace,” Thompson notes.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 2876, September 8, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 2876, September 8, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Dusty season

It is the dusty season on Mars, so the environmental scientists on the team have taken the opportunity to plan a comprehensive suite of activities.

“Their prime goal is to monitor how the dust in the atmosphere affects opacity and to look for dust devil activity, but they also planned an observation to monitor cloud formation,” Thompson reports.

Both Curiosity’s Mastcam and Navcam will be utilized for these observations.

Argon measurement

“While we have drilled sample in the Sample Acquisition, Processing, and Handling (SA/SPaH) subsystem,” scientists are unable to use the other instruments on the rover arm — (the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer) for contact science.

This Sol 2874 Navcam right image shows Curiosity’s turret and the APXS instrument (top, right of center) pointed away from the ground. Mount Sharp is in the background. APXS made measurements of the Argon content of the Martian atmosphere.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“This means that as a member of the APXS team, it is normally a relatively quiet time for me, as we wait to dump the drilled sample from the SA/SPaH system,” Thompson explains. “However, we are able to use the APXS, pointing away from the ground, to make measurements of the Argon content of the atmosphere.”

That measurement is done roughly every 4 weeks to record seasonal fluctuations, and scientists took the opportunity to plan such a measurement recently.

Thompson concludes that the remainder of the current plan includes standard Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) and Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) activities.

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