Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1843, October 12, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, now in Sol 1845, has been playing a “game of inches,” reports Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist at Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“There’s a line in the halftime scene of the movie ‘Any Given Sunday’ that ‘life’s this game of inches…the margin for error is so small.’ The same is true on Mars,” Minitti explains.

Rock obstacle

On Sol 1843, Curiosity began a drive with a turn to the right. But the robot’s right rear wheel encountered a small ridge – a few inches of rock offering just enough resistance to cause the rover to stop the drive and wait for further instructions.

“The unexpected obstacle gave Curiosity a fourth planning sol at this location which the team used to add to their collection of bedrock measurements from the workspace,” Minitti adds.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1843, October 12, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Workspace targets

The “Bulawayo” target offered one of the least-dusty surfaces in the workspace, a gray, finely-layered and vertical rock face that made a tempting target for Curiosity’s Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) device.

ChemCam also laser shot “Bushveld,” a wind-sculpted expanse of bedrock dotted with small, resistant features.

Not far from Bushveld, and adjacent to Sol 1838’s “Duitschland” target, both the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and the rover’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) studied bedrock target “Stormberg.”

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1843, October 12, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Chemical differences

“Having APXS analyses from both Stormberg and Duitschland in close proximity,” Minitti points out, “provides the opportunity to tease out small chemical differences between the targets.”

After Curiosity frees itself from the obstacle by the right rear wheel, the plan calls for a roughly 65 feet (20 meters) drive continuing up the “Vera Rubin Ridge.”

Post-drive, the plan calls for the rover to acquire an automatically-targeted ChemCam analysis and a third Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) integration of the “Ogunquit Beach” sand sample.

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo acquired on Sol 1843, October 12, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“Each CheMin integration brings the mineralogy of the Ogunquit Beach sample into sharper and sharper focus,” Minitti adds.

Dust devil, cloud movies

The majority of the environmental monitoring observations also happen post-drive, including acquisition of mid-afternoon dust devil and cloud movies and a Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) active measurement.

Minitti concludes: “Here’s hoping the inches break our way this weekend!”

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