Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image acquired on Sol 1924, January 4, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Now in Sol 1925, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is “off to the races,” explains Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist at Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“Curiosity’s hard work over the holiday break paid off, giving the science team a rich collection of new data to assess and a new workspace to explore,” Minitti reports. “The science team certainly got the year off to a bang with a very full plan at our new parking spot!”

Curiosity Rear Hazcam Left B photo taken on Sol 1924, January 4, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Staircase science

Minitti explains that the layered rocks in the workspace extend away from the rover “like a staircase,” and rover observations are aimed at “walking” up the staircase to survey similarities and differences in the layers on its journey.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 1923, January 3, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity started near the bottom of the workspace, acquiring Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) mosaics on layers in the targets “Jura” (a triangular-shaped target immediately in front of the rover) and “Crinan.”

“About halfway up the staircase, we stopped at the target “Assynt” for MAHLI imaging, Minitti adds, with chemistry measurements taken with the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS).

“A few more steps up brought us to the target ‘Barra,’ which we analyzed with ChemCam. Finally, at the farthest point where the arm could reach, we acquired MAHLI images and ChemCam data from the target “Elgin.”

Curiosity Mastcam Left image acquired on Sol 1923, January 3, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Bountiful workplace

The robot also acquired Mastcam multispectral observations, telling scientists something about the iron-bearing minerals in the rock, in a continuous swath from Crinan to Elgin, and tracked the layers from in front of the rover to the right of the robot using a 5×2 Mastcam stereo mosaic.

“While mostly busy looking at the rocks in front of us, we paused to take an afternoon glance skyward to look for clouds and dust devils, and measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere,” Minitti notes.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image acquired on Sol 1923, January 3, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“The bountiful workspace meant that we did not drive, so we will remain here to start our weekend plan,” allowing the science team to follow up on recent observations, Minitti concludes.

Working holiday

In another report, Christopher Edwards, a planetary geologist at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, detailed Curiosity’s “working holiday” on Sols 1913-1924.

“There’s no real rest for the rover. We planned sols 1921-1924 on December 22 and 29. Earlier, the team had planned a minimal set of activities for the rover to carry out over Sols 1913-1920, letting the science and engineering teams spend a bit of time away from work,” Edwards notes.

“However, this doesn’t mean Curiosity was sitting idle. There were still plenty of things to do on Mars,” Edwards adds, including use of Autonomous Exploration for Gathering of Increased Science (AEGIS) software to pick out targets of interest and measure their chemistry at the robot’s current parking spot.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1905, December 15, 2017
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Peculiar targets

On New Year’s Eve, the rover started carrying out a four-sol activity plan that was scripted Dec. 29.

“This site was so interesting that we backtracked to get to where the rover was parked for this plan. In the workspace in front of the rover, we have some very peculiar targets that warranted some additional interrogation,” Edwards explains.

From orbit, this rover location has a very interesting appearance, with bluer hues being observed in High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera data onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Stick-like features

On the ground, scientists made APXS measurements on two targets, Haroldswick (the dark toned “stick-like” features observed in this Mastcam image from sol 1905) and the Raasay target.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo from Sol 1923, January 2, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


“We are using these observations to help characterize the interesting compositional variability observed at this location even further,” Edwards says. “We also planned several ChemCam activities to aid in understanding this ever-evolving compositional story Curiosity is unraveling.”

In all, Edwards concludes, “while the science and engineering teams took some time off over the holiday season, Curiosity was hard at work on Mars.”

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