Curiosity’s Front Hazard Avoidance Camera image taken on Sol 2943, November 16, 2020
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2946 tasks.

Reports Mark Salvatore, a planetary geologist at the University of Michigan, Curiosity will be staying busy as the team continues to investigate the topographic “benches” as the robot moves from the Glen Torridon region uphill towards the sulfate-bearing unit.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2945, November 18, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Last week, Curiosity was positioned at the bottom of one of these benches looking at the geologic layers exposed along the side. Over the weekend, we drove around and on top of the same bench to capture a view from the top and to investigate the uppermost geologic layers,” Salvatore explains.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image acquired on Sol 2945, November 18, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Plethora of science

In the coming days, Curiosity will use its remote sensing instruments and the tools on the rover’s arm to investigate two spots on the top of the bench – one is a smooth portion of exposed bedrock while the other is a clearly layered rocky unit.

“The team had the opportunity to quickly study the top of this bench and then drive away up towards the next bench, but the team decided to stay at this location given the well-exposed rocks and the plethora of science that we can accomplish at this location,” Salvatore adds.

Being on this topographically perched bench gives scientists a stunning view and allows them to remotely characterize the geologic units that are ahead of them.

“Over the coming days, Curiosity will continue her drive up and over these benches, conducting additional analyses and imaging while we continue to make our way up Mt. Sharp,” Salvatore concludes.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2944, November 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Recessive to resistant rocks

In an earlier report, Ryan Anderson, a planetary geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona notes: “Benches like the ones we’re driving through in this area usually form when the bedrock consists of alternating layers of harder, more resistant rock and softer more ‘recessive’ rock. At the current outcrop, we think we can see the transition from recessive to resistant rocks, so a priority was to collect chemistry measurements and high-quality images from both rock types.”

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 2945, November 18, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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