Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) image acquired on Sol 1926, January 6, 2018. This product was created by merging two to eight images previously taken by the MAHLI, located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has just concluded Sol 1926 science operations.

The robot is investigating “layers of fun!” That’s the word from Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist at Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Curiosity color imagery taken during Sols 1925-1926 shows in greater detail the numerous layers and color variations that kept the rover at this spot for another round of science observations within its workspace.

Curiosity MAHLI imagery from Sol 1926, January 5, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Staircase-like workspace

“Exploring more of the steps in our staircase-like workspace was the name of the game today,” Minitti reports. The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) mosaics acquired on Sol 1925 from the targets “Jura” and “Crinan,” near the bottom of the workspace, were intriguing enough to lead Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) to analyze both of them with rasters that crossed over multiple layers exposed in these targets.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1925, January 5, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Also near the bottom of the workspace, the target “Craighead,” a gray rock cut by criss-crossing sulfate veins, was slated to be brushed by the Dust Removal Tool (DRT), and then imaged by MAHLI and analyzed by the rover’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS).

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo from Sol 1926, January 6, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Chemical survey

In between the targets Crinan and “Assynt” (another Sol 1925 target), ChemCam will shoot the target “Brodick” to add to a chemical survey of the outcrop.

MAHLI will follow up on a ChemCam target from Sol 1925, “Barra,” taking advantage of the dust-removing capability of ChemCam’s laser to get a closer, cleaner look at this target near the top of the workspace.

“We took a few brief breaks from the rocks in front of us to image and analyze other objects of interest,” Minitti adds. ChemCam will shoot the sand target “Boreray” to compare its chemistry to those of sands Curiosity has encountered throughout the mission.

Clear viewing

ChemCam and Mastcam will both image the Peace Vallis fan, far north of the rover on the Gale crater rim, “as our vantage point on top of the ‘Vera Rubin Ridge’ gives us a clear view of it,” Minitti points out.

MAHLI is slated to image the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) ultraviolet sensor to monitor dust accumulation on the zenith-pointing sensor.

REMS itself along with the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) will make regular measurements of the environment, and Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument will ping the ground below the rover both before and after a rover drive to seek signs of subsurface hydrogen.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1925, January 5, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

New drive to bedrock

Early morning Navcam and Mastcam observations were to be done of clouds and the amount of dust in the atmosphere to complement a similar suite of observations made mid-day on Sol 1925.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B image acquired on Sol 1926, January 6, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On the second sol of the plan, Curiosity was scheduled to drive away “to a new patch of bedrock that, at least from orbit, shares characteristics with the bedrock we have spent the past few sols investigating,” Minitti concludes. “By comparing what we find there to our recent measurements, we can continue to put together a story for how the Vera Rubin Ridge came to be.”

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