Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B photo acquired on Sol 2382, April 19, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2383 duties.

A recent drill pre-load test was successful, so a go has been given for a drill attempt at “Kilmarie,” reports Abigail Fraeman, a planetary geologist at NASA/JPL in Pasadena, California.

The new drill location is nearby the last drilling area at “Aberlady.”

Recent imagery taken by the robot shows the point of the drill on the future Kilmarie drill target along with the old Aberlady drill hole, a little to the left of the arm.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2382, April 19, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Drilling irregularities

“It’s been a while since we’ve drilled two locations so close together,” explains Fraeman. “We decided to drill again in this area because we saw some irregularities during drilling Aberlady.”

Specifically, scientists were not sure Curiosity collected enough drill material for both the Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) and the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite at the Aberlady location, “so we’re hoping we can be more confident in the amount of sample we collect at Kilmarie,” Fraeman adds.

Curiosity Mastcam Right photo acquired on Sol 2381, April 18, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Stable parking position

Fraeman notes her role as Surface Properties Scientist (SPS).

“One of my responsibilities as SPS is to help assess whether the terrain Curiosity is parked on is stable. Curiosity’s arm is so big and heavy that moving it causes the rover’s center of gravity to shift,” Fraeman explains. “If Curiosity isn’t firmly parked, moving the arm could inadvertently move the entire ~1 ton rover, which could result in hardware damage.”

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2382, April 19, 2019. MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Vehicle slipping

It was determined that Curiosity had parked on a flat surface and five of the wheels were firmly in contact with the ground.

“However, the right front wheel appeared to be sitting on a very small rock (~2-3 centimeters) that was located right in the middle of the wheel. We had a lot of conversations about what the risk of the vehicle slipping was and whether we thought the rock we were sitting on might shift,” Fraeman notes.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 2382, April 19, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL




“Using our experience testing similar situations in the Mars Yard at JPL and knowledge of properties of the terrain around the rover, we decided the risk we’d slip was very small, and gave the ‘OK’ to go ahead with arm activities,” Fraeman says. “Images taken before and after the drill pre-load yesterday confirmed we hadn’t moved at all and were correct in our assessment.”

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