Curiosity Left Navigation Camera Left B photo acquired on Sol 2558, October 17, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2559 duties.

“Our drive away from our long-time home at the “Glen Etive” drilling site was successful, and set us up nicely at our next exploration site, one of the “Culbin Sands” megaripples,” reports Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist at Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image taken on Sol 2558, October 17, 2019.

Scuff the ripple

A recent primary goal was for Curiosity to “scuff” the ripple, intentionally driving into the ripple with its front right wheel to churn up and expose its interior.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2558, October 17, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“By studying the composition and grain size of the ripple interior and exterior, the team hopes to determine the origin and history of these megaripple features,” Minitti explains. “Before exposing the interior of the ripple with the scuff, the team acquired data from the ripple exterior, specifically the ripple crest.”

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2558, October 17, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Laser shots

The ten shot Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) raster across the ripple crest, on the target “Seilebost Beach,” will provide insight into the chemistry and size distribution of the grains on top of the ripple, Minitti adds.

After shooting Seilebost Beach, the rover was set to back up just over one meter and then acquire Mastcam and Navcam mosaics encompassing the whole of the ripple.

“These will give us one last pristine look at the ripple in its entirety before the wheel digs in,” Minitti notes. “The rover will then scuff the ripple and then position itself so that the scuff is within reach of the arm and mast instruments for several subsequent days of science observations focused on the scuff.”

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2558, October 17, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Shadows on Mt. Sharp

Once the robot is parked in place, the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) is scheduled to acquire an image of the ripple surface under the rover and the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) is slated to ping the new ground beneath the rover with an active measurement.

 

 

“The sky above us is always changing,” Minitti concludes, “so the rover acquired Navcam movies to look for clouds in the sky and any shadows they cast on Mt. Sharp, as well as an atmospheric chemistry analysis with its Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) along with taking regular Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) and Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) measurements.

 

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