Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image taken on Sol 2659, January 29, 2020. The rover is analyzing the bedrock target “Lost Valley.”
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is wrapping up Sol 2659 tasks.

Curiosity is heading for the bench reports Catherine O’Connell, a planetary geologist at University of New Brunswick Fredericton in New Brunswick, Canada.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2659, January 29, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“The bench is an area that we are very interested in,” O’Connell explains, “as it marks a potential contact between the mudstones and sandstones that we have been driving over and a ‘capping’ rock, which looks quite different.”

As the robot drives, O’Connell adds, Mars researchers are looking for changes in chemistry and sedimentary processes, which can help them understand one of the big questions they are wrestling with right now: “Why are these buttes here?!!”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2659, January 29, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Bedrock targets

On the plan, a short science block using the rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and its Mastcam, as well as contact science with the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and use of the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). Following is a drive towards the bench along the side of

“Tower Butte.”

APXS and MAHLI are analyzing the bedrock target “Lost Valley,” whilst ChemCam and Mastcam are analyzing two other bedrock targets “Balantyre” and “Aberdeenshire.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2659, January 29, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Up the hill

“Mastcam will also image a very intriguing rock, “Hill of Stake” outside of the range of the other instruments, and further imaging of the “Greenheugh” pediment, which we hope to climb onto before this year is out,” O’Connell says.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2659, January 29, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

“Once these activities are complete,” O’Connell continues, “we start to climb further up the hill towards Tower Butte, hoping to end up with more bedrock in our workspace for a more complete compositional picture.”

Environmental activities

The environmental theme group (ENV) crammed activities into the short sol too, including “full tau” and “crater rim” observations, which allows the ENV group to quantify dust in the crater and overhead in the atmosphere.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 2659, January 29, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) is slated to acquire temperature, pressure, humidity, and UV radiation measurements.

The robot’s Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) experiment continues its search for subsurface hydrogen, with frequent passive (utilizing cosmic rays as a source of neutrons to measure hydrogen) and also taking post-drive active (actively shooting neutrons from the rover) measurements, O’Connell concludes.

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