Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 2648, January 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2653 tasks.

Curiosity has regained its knowledge of orientation to proceed with arm activities and mobility and is ready for science once more, reports Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “And a very full science plan was made!”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2648, January 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Much of that plan was recycled from last Friday’s intended plan, including contact science with the robot’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on bedrock targets Moffat Hills and Trossachs.

Mosaic of Western Butte

Guzewich also reports that there was a plethora of Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) targets, a Mastcam mosaic of Western Butte, Mastcam multispectral images on Trossachs, and environmental movies to search for clouds and dust devils while also documenting atmospheric dust levels.

This Hazcam image shows Curiosity’s arm extended out to perform an Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) analysis of the bedrock. Curiosity has to know the exact angle of every joint to move safely. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image taken on Sol 2648, January 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Also planned was a rare measurement with APXS to measure the argon abundance in the atmosphere, Guzewich adds.

Argon variation

“Approximately 25 percent of Mars’ carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere condenses on the winter polar ice cap, while trace gases like argon do not,” Guzewich explains. “This leads to seasonal variations in the relative fraction of argon to carbon dioxide in the air. APXS can measure this argon variation by simply turning on and looking at the sky while the arm is stowed. Seeing argon vary through the year is akin to watching Mars breathe!”

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