Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) image taken on Sol 1378, June 22, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) image taken on Sol 1378, June 22, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars is now in Sol 1380.

Over last weekend, the wheeled robot stopped after about 55 feet (17 meters) of a planned drive of 213 feet (65 meters) drive.

“The rover is fine, the drive just tripped one of the very conservative limits on how the rover’s suspension was expected to behave, causing Curiosity to stop and check in with Earth,” reports Ryan Anderson, a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center at Flagstaff, Arizona.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1378, June 22, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1378, June 22, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Word is that rover drivers are trying to make up this week some of the lost distance from the weekend plan.

Bedrock targeting

According to a Sol 1378 plan, the rover’s Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) was to make observations bedrock at the target “Tombua” and a rock named “Ai Ais.”

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1378, June 22, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1378, June 22, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Curiosity’s Mastcam was then slated to image the two ChemCam targets, as well as use on Sol 1376 the Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) system.

Atmospheric observations

The rover’s Mastcam will on tap to image some veins at a location called “Helgas.” After that, the plan called for driving and collecting some typical post-drive imaging.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1378, June 21, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1378, June 21, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

On Sol 1379, the rover was to use its ChemCam, NavCam, and Mastcam gear to make atmospheric observations. Then in the afternoon, ChemCam had some calibration observations, followed by a few more Mastcam atmospheric observations.

Dust on the deck

Turning back the clock a bit to Sol 1377, the Left Mastcam acquired a mosaic of the rover deck, to serve as a baseline for comparison with future images taken after passing the sand dunes along the path ahead.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image of rover's deck on Sol 1375, June 19, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Left image of rover’s deck on Sol 1375, June 19, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Reports Ken Herkenhoff, also of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center, sand blown across the rover might remove some of the dust on the rover deck.

Volcanism finding

Meanwhile, NASA announced yesterday that scientists using Curiosity have discovered an unexpected mineral in a rock sample at Gale Crater on Mars.

Analyzing data from an X-ray diffraction instrument on the rover that identifies minerals, scientists detected significant amounts of a silica mineral called tridymite.

Tridymite is generally associated with silicic volcanism.

The discovery of tridymite – led by scientists in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston — might induce scientists to rethink the volcanic history of Mars, suggesting that the planet once had explosive volcanoes that led to the presence of the mineral.

Making tracks

A recently released map of the rover’s traverse indicates that from Sol 1376 to Sol 1378 Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 139.03 feet (42.38 meters).

Since touching down on the Red Planet in August 2012, Curiosity has wheeled itself over 8.10 miles (13.04 kilometers).

As always, dates of planned rover activities are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Leave a Reply

Griffith Observatory Event