Curiosity Front Hazcam Left A photo taken on Sol 2259, December 14, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2259 tasks.

“May the (drill) force be with us!” reports Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist at Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland

A recent Curiosity rover drive around to the north side of “Rock Hall” in was successful, placing the robot at a lower tilt and with room in the workspace to place all the piles of sample dropped on the surface (purposely!) in the aftermath of drilling.

“Rock Hall” (right) and “Cluny Hill” bedrock slabs from Curiosity’s Sol 2256 parking spot. Photo obtained by rover’s Mastcam Left Sol 2256 December 11, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Observations of Rock Hall gave scientists confidence that they were at a promising red Jura target for drilling, Minitti adds.

Trio of targets

Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) rasters across three different targets on Rock Hall, Minitti points out, indicated the slab had chemistry and spectral character consistent with red Jura.

Curiosity Navcam Left A photo acquired on Sol 2259, December 14, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Mastcam images focused on the slab demonstrated that while it was dusty in flatter areas, and covered with scattered, loose gray and red pebbles in others, the slab had the red, shiny appearance we associate with red Jura,” Minitti explains. “This placed us farther down the path toward drilling red Jura than we had been with any of our previous sites!”

A new plan for the rover focused on characterizing the would-be drill target.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 2259, December 14, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Suitable for drilling?

The loose pebbles on the Rock Hall slab precluded use of the Dust Removal Tool. On the schedule was acquisition of ChemCam, Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) observations of the unbrushed drill target itself.

“We will also push the drill into the target, called a pre-load test, to assess the suitability of the Rock Hall block for drilling. Whether or not we see a mark from the drill in the target after the pre-load test will give us some idea of the hardness of the drill target. The science team will scrutinize the mark from the drill (or lack thereof) carefully as a predictor of the likelihood of drilling success,” Minitti points out. “We also had time to gather data from other targets of interest both on and around the Rock Hall slab.”

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) product performed on Sol 2259, December 14, 2018. MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The plan called for acquiring MAHLI and APXS data on “Corrieshalloch Gorge,” a slightly less dusty (and thus redder) portion of the Rock Hall slab. Also, on tap was shooting “Cluny Hill,” a target on a rubbly, heterogeneous neighbor of Rock Hall, with ChemCam.

Candidate iron meteorite

Mastcam multispectral observations of “Gometra” will give scientists further insight into this candidate iron meteorite target, of which there has been surprisingly many in this part of the “Vera Rubin Ridge.”

The robot will image “Marsco,” a small sand-filled depression that might represent a small impact crater, with Mastcam.

Navcam will scan the skies for clouds and dust devils and Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) passive and active observations for H will ping the ground under Curiosity’s new parking spot, Minitti concludes.

Curiosity Navcam Left A photo acquired on Sol 2259, December 14, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Navcam Left A photo acquired on Sol 2259, December 14, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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