Curiosity Mastcam Left image acquired on Sol 2077, June 10, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Now in Sol 2079, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is monitoring an evolving dust storm on the Red Planet.

Over the weekend, an error cropped up during a regular test of the high gain antenna (HGA) actuators, leaving the antenna unavailable for uplink of a recent plan, but otherwise healthy, reports Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist for AFramework in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The team instead was to use Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) to uplink a brief suite of activities to the rover, including the commands to recover the high gain antenna for use.

Curiosity Mastcam Right photo taken on Sol 2078, June 11, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Drill-related duties

The MRO uplink window is hours later than a usual HGA uplink window, so with less time in the plan, so robot operators had to postpone drill-related work until a later plan, Minitti adds.

Curiosity researchers, however, did get confirmation that all is ready for the next step of drill-related activities: dumping the “Duluth” sample for analysis by Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS), the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and Mastcam.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 2077, June 10, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

A new plan calls for high-priority activities dedicated to monitoring the changing conditions associated with the ever-growing dust storm on Mars, Minitti notes.

Dust loads

“Mastcam will measure the dust load in the atmosphere, and image two areas, ‘Noodle Lake’ and a spot where a test Duluth sample portion was dropped, to look for wind-induced changes,” Minitti reports.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 2078, June 11, 2018 at 08:11:51 UTC.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo acquired on Sol 2078 June 11, 2018 at 08:16:40 UTC.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Regular Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) measurements will provide scientists the data they need for weather reports as the storm builds.

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