NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity acquired this image using its Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Sol 2529
Mastcam image, showing both Glen Etive drill holes, surrounded by “tailings” produced by the drilling process
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now in Sol 2533 mode.

Reports Catherine O’Connell-Cooper, Planetary Geologist at University of New Brunswick: “Planning for this past week has centered on analyzing the high potassium drill sample, Glen Etive 2, using the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument.”

Portions of the drilled sample have been delivered to SAM and an evolved gas analysis (EGA) conducted.

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo image acquired on Sol 2531, September 19, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS



Wet chemistry

“This involved heating the sample to very high temperatures and measuring the gases that bake out of the sample with each temperature increment,” O’Connell-Cooper points out. Following the successful completion of the EGA, the plan called for a SAM uplink to clean the SAM Gas Chromatograph (GC) Columns, before some sample is transferred internally for a special wet chemistry experiment in the upcoming week’s plan.

The Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument will also do some preparation work in this plan, ahead of a planned sample drop-off to CheMin at the end of next week, O’Connell-Cooper notes.

“Although we wanted to dedicate most of Curiosity’s resources to the continuing Glen Etive analysis, the Geology theme group (GEO) managed to fit in some geology observations. ChemCam will analyze two targets, investigating soil and pebbles at ‘Kilpatrick’ and refining bedrock composition at ‘Glen Lyon.’

Curosity Front Hazcam Left B image taken on Sol 2531, September 19, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Sand and bedrock

In addition to imaging the ChemCam targets to support geological interpretation, Mastcam will revisit the sol 2491 “change detection” target “Dundee.”

“This target contains both sand and bedrock,” O’Connell-Cooper explains, “making it easier to track small-scale changes, such as sand moving over bedrock. Although change detection studies track small particle movements, they are of immense use, helping us understand the larger picture, such as sand dune movement and changing wind regimes.”

Curiosity Navcam Right B photo acquired on Sol 2532, September 20, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Environmental Theme Group (ENV) will monitor large-scale surface changes, such as those due to strong winds and atmospheric vortices (dust devils), and look at broader environmental conditions (clouds, atmospheric dust) in Gale and beyond.

O’Connell-Cooper concludes that it has been a quiet week for APXS. “However, it is exciting to see SAM have a starring role this week, and we are eagerly anticipating the results from SAM and CheMin over the next few weeks!”

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