Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1896, December 6, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now deep into Sol 1897 operations.

Long wheel tracks in Sol 1896 imagery from the robot show a successful drive of roughly 82 feet (25 meters), bringing it to another stop along the route on Vera Rubin Ridge.

“We’ll actually spend a few days at this stop, where we plan to assess the surrounding bedrock, soil, and what we think might be a small impact crater,” reports Rachel Kronyak, a planetary geologist from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B photo acquired on Sol 1897, December 7, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Bedrock rubble

The bedrock around the rover at the new stop is quite rubbly, which made choosing targets for Curiosity’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) measurements slightly more difficult, as it’s often hard to place the arm in contact with rough surfaces, Kronyak adds.

“Nevertheless,” Kronyak continues, “we planned a very busy 2 sols of science activities! We’ll spend Sol 1897 using the robotic arm to collect APXS and MAHLI data on two bedrock targets, named “Muck” and “Wick” and a soil target named “Sandness.”

Curiosity Mastcam Left image acquired on Sol 1896, December 6, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Play it again SAM

Overnight on Sol 1897, a Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite (SAM) preconditioning activity is to be performed.

Doing so will mean carrying out a geochrononology experiment over the weekend on the onboard and stored “Ogunquit Beach” sand sample.

Suprahorizon movie

Sol 1898 is primarily devoted to remote science.

First, the rover will take some environmental measurements, including a suprahorizon movie, dust devil survey.

Next, the plan calls for analyzing the soil target “Sandwick” with the robot’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument, along with use of automated software called Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science, or AEGIS, on a selected target.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image talen on Sol 1896, December 6, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


Sandy targets

“To wrap up our observations,” Kronyak notes, “we’ll take a series of Mastcam mosaics to capture the local geology, including the sand ripple target named “Loch Eil” and the coarse sandy target named “Ballantrae.” We’ll also take a few images of the terrain ahead to help assess our drive path along the Vera Rubin Ridge. We’ll remain at this location for the weekend as well.”

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo acquired on Sol 1895, December 5, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL



Exciting news

Kronyak says there’s exciting news.

Curiosity has crossed into a new section of the science team’s geologic map. This means using a new theme for naming targets.

“The new quadrangle is named after Torridon, a village in the Northwest Highlands of Scotland that is near the Torridonian Supergroup, a geological formation that contains some of the oldest evidence of life of any rocks in the United Kingdom,” Kronyak explains. “We hope that this life-inspired Torridon quadrangle will give us good luck as we explore the ancient and potentially habitable environments along our trek up Mount Sharp!”

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