Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera Sol 2764 May 16, 2020. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2768 tasks.

Reports Sean Czarnecki, a planetary geologist at Arizona State University in Tempe, Curiosity is at the “Glasgow” drill site, and preparing to deliver more sample material from Glasgow to the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite in the near future.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left Sol 2765 May 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSS

Take a break

“The SAM analysis will use a lot of power, so we’re limiting our power use in this plan to let the batteries charge up,” Czarnecki adds. “Even the most curious field geologists have to take a break every day to eat lunch and Curiosity does the same, although with a considerably more energy dense meal! But just like a geologist on lunch break, Curiosity is still making some useful science observations of the surrounding rocks!”

Czarnecki explains that the rover’s Mastcam will take stereo images of “Western Butte,” then its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will measure the geochemistry of “Loch Olabhat 2” followed by a Mastcam image of this target.

In the background, the rover’s Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) and Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) will continue to monitor the environmental characteristics of the robot’s current location.

Getting it ready

In an earlier report, Fred Calef, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, notes that, after a successful SAM preconditioning (rover-speak for “getting it ready”), the rover delivered some “Glasgow” drill sample into the instrument.

“The first experiment will be an ‘evolved gas’ one. This is where we bake the rocks causing them to release gases from within the minerals in the sediments. These gases will be flowed to two of the three instruments which make up SAM (a mass spectrometer and tunable laser spectrometer) to measure the composition of the gas. The temperature at which gases are released gives us further insight into the composition of the sample, and allows scientists to look at how water is stored within minerals,” Calef adds.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imaging (RMI) camera photo taken on Sol 2767, May 19, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Mineral flavors

“Since the rover didn’t have a whole lot of power, and SAM is energy intensive, we only had a few other observations,” Calef explains.

A large Mastcam mosaic was taken on the first sol covering the Greenheugh pediment as well as other Mastcam imaging for looking at dust in the air (line-of-sight extinction and solar tau) and a ChemCam passive sky observation.

Concludes Calef: “Looking forward to seeing what mineral ‘flavors’ we find!”

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