Image of the Glen Torridon area. The bright exposure of rock in the foreground is the top of the area being interrogated by the contact science instruments in the plan tosol. This gives way to the rubbly and sandy terrain in the background, with a few areas of bedrock exposure, flanked by the southern edge of the Vera Rubin Ridge behind.
Photo acquired by Curiosity Navcam Left A on Sol 2316, February 10, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2320 duties and at work within the Glen Torridon site.

Reports Lucy Thompson, a planetary geologist from the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada: “Similar to its namesake in Scotland, the Glen Torridon area on Mars affords us stunning vistas, but in our case, of the relatively low-lying clay bearing (from orbit) unit flanked to the north by the higher ground of the Vera Rubin Ridge and to the south, by Mount Sharp.”

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left A image taken on Sol 2318, February 13, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scenic views

Mars scientists have been capturing the scenic views with the rover’s Mastcam, Navcam and Front Hazcam cameras, “and stopping for a taste of what this area has to offer by analyzing the local terrain with our suite of contact science instruments,” Thompson adds, as well as with the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and Mastcam.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 2317, February 11, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“The drive we took over the weekend went off without a hitch and placed us on one of the few examples of more coherent, in-place bedrock exposures in the area,” Thompson notes. “As such, we decided to put the brakes on and take some time to investigate in more detail.”

Bedrock brushing

The schedule calls for deployment of Curiosity’s robotic arm to first brush a typical area of bedrock called “Curlew.” This action removes as much of the Mars surface dust as possible, before taking close-up images of the target with the robot’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and then analyzing it for chemistry with the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS).

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) produced on Sol 2318, February 13, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“The arm will also place us to take close up MAHLI images and obtain chemistry with APXS of another slightly different looking area (color and texture) of exposed bedrock (“Gannet”),” Thompson says. “To complement these observations, we also planned ChemCam laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) on the “Gannet” target, and Mastcam multispectral observations to cover both targets to look for spectral variations across the outcrop.”

Mixture of rubbly rock and sand

ChemCam is also set to investigate the composition of two other bedrock targets (“Beryl” and “Ladyburn”), and a pebble target (“Southness”) with LIBS and Mars researchers will increase the color image coverage of this exposure with Mastcam.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) produced on Sol 2318, February 13, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The rover’s Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) is slated to perform active and passive measurements, included to investigate the distribution of subsurface hydrogen in the bedrock and regolith.

“We also planned a large Mastcam mosaic to capture the view out the front window. It will include the cliffs of the Vera Rubin Ridge as well as the drive direction, which is a mixture of rubbly rock and sand and low-lying bedrock exposures, one of which (“Midland Valley”) we hope to drive to next,” Thompson reports.

Curiosity Navcam Right A image acquired on Sol 2318, February 13, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Fun, busy day

“The data we collect will help us to compare the Glen Torridon area with other regions we have encountered on the mission; specifically the rocks we analyzed on the Vera Rubin Ridge, as well as the other Murray formation sedimentary rocks we encountered prior to the Vera Rubin Ridge,” Thompson adds. “It will also allow us to place this area in context as we continue to climb Mount Sharp.”

Curiosity Mastcam Right photo taken on Sol 2318, February 13, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity is also monitoring the environment as the Mars machinery tours Glen Torridon.

Also included in the plan are standard background Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) activities that monitor the daily martian weather, two Navcam dust devil movies and a Navcam dust devil survey. Also to be done is monitoring the radiation environment with Curiosity’s Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD).

“A fun, busy day of planning on Mars with lots of great observations,” Thompson concludes.

Leave a Reply