Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B image acquired on Sol 1972, February 22, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Now in Sol 1973, NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has been given a go for restart of drilling operations.

“Curiosity is officially go for drilling the ‘Lake Orcadie’ target! After more than a year’s wait for the drill to come back online, the rover planners and engineers are confident and ready to proceed with a test of a new drilling method in the coming days,” reports Mark Salvatore, a planetary geologist at the University of Michigan in Dearborn.

Because there is only so much data volume and rover power to go around, Salvatore adds, performing drill activities must temporarily come at the expense of scientific investigations. “Although you’d be pressed to find a disappointed science team member this week,” he explains, “as the drilling campaign will bring loads of new scientific data!”

Revised drilling operations

As a result, with the exception of some environmental observations by the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) instrument, the plan underway does not include any targeted scientific observations.

Instead work is moving forward dedicated to drill preload activities and imaging for engineering and rover planning purposes in preparation for a full test of the revised drilling operations.

Curiosity Rear Hazcam Left B image taken on Sol 1972, February 22, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

History of Gale crater

“The name ‘Lake Orcadie’ refers to an ancient lake that was once located in Scotland and is now a series of sedimentary deposits preserved in the geologic record,” Salvatore explains. “The Lake Orcadie sediments in Scotland helped geologists to reconstruct the environmental history of the Devonian period on Earth, when fish began to diversify.”

Considering this target will be the first drill location on Vera Rubin Ridge, Salvatore concludes, “perhaps these new data will help inform us as to what sort of geologic and environmental conditions were present during this time in the history of Gale crater.”

Curiosity Mastcam Right image acquired on Sol 1969, February 19, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Off-loaded sand

In a previous report, Abigail Fraeman, a planetary geologist at NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, spotlighted observations on the “Ogunquit Beach” sand sample that was off-loaded from the rover over last weekend.

Curiosity had dumped two piles of the Ogunquit Beach sample – a pre-sieved and post-sieved portion – on the ground in front of the Mars machinery. The plan at that time called for blasting that pile via the robot’s laser as part of Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) observations.

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