Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 2299, January 24, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
This image looks along the back edge of the Vera Rubin Ridge (top left to top center) down into the clay-bearing unit.

 

NASA’s Curiosity rover is now performing Sol 2301 tasks.

“Curiosity is on the brink of descending down off the Vera Rubin Ridge (VRR) onto the clay-bearing unit,” reports Lucy Thompson, a planetary geologist at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 2299, January 24, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“We are hoping to ‘beam up’ lots of interesting new data to the Mars orbiters, to be relayed to Earth after executing our plan on Mars tosol,” Thompson adds.

Touch and go tactic

Scientists have planned a typical “Touch and Go” sol, which includes using the arm to place contact science instruments – the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) — on a rock target to document chemistry and texture, Thompson explains. That is followed by remote science by Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument and the rover’s Mastcam to also look at chemistry and the larger scale view out the front window, before a drive.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 2299, January 24, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“We are documenting how the chemistry and appearance of the rock is changing as we transition from the resistant VRR to the less resistant, orbitally distinct clay-bearing unit, and taking larger-scale images and mosaics to assist in future planning of our investigation of the clay-bearing unit,” Thompson notes.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left A image acquired on Sol 2300, January 25, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Looking for spectral variations

A reddish-purple, laminated bedrock target has been selected for APXS and MAHLI and tagged with the name “Linlithgow,” which is apparently the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and the future birthplace (in 2222) of Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, chief engineer of Star Trek’s Enterprise (hence the title)!

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 2299, January 24, 2019. MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“The great grandfather of one of our science team members also compiled an anthology of poetry from the area in 1896, so a popular choice of name! Mastcam images will be taken of this target and an adjacent, rougher textured and different colored bedrock target, “Stoneywood” (also a ChemCam target), to look for spectral variations between the two areas,” Thompson adds.

Planned drive

The more typical bedrock target, “Stornoway” will be analyzed for composition by the robot’s ChemCam instrument. “A large Mastcam mosaic of 21×2 images was also planned of an area named ‘Boyndie Bay,’ says Thompson, “to document some interesting features that we are thinking of visiting during our investigation of the clay-bearing unit.”

Curiosity Mastcam Right image acquired on Sol 2300, January 25, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The planned drive should take Curiosity to the very edge of the VRR, and that will likely be its last stop before the rover drives down onto the clay-bearing unit. The plan calls for acquiring images to facilitate a full weekend of science activities at this important location, as well as a post-drive Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) active measurement to investigate the distribution of subsurface hydrogen.

Additional Mastcam images and Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) meteorological observations were planned to monitor dust in the Martian atmosphere, Thompson concludes.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

New traverse map

A newly issued Curiosity traverse map shows the robot’s movements through Sol 2299 (January 24, 2019).

Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up. The scale bar is 1 kilometer (~0.62 mile).

From Sol 2298 to Sol 2299, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 88.19 feet (26.88 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 12.42 miles (19.99 kilometers). The rover landed on Mars in August 2012.

The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

 

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