Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B photo taken on Sol 2777, May 29, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2778 duties.

“This week the science team decided not to drill a second hole next to the ‘Glasgow’ target, and so we’re able to hit the road again this weekend,” reports Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image acquired on Sol 2777, May 29, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We’re heading east, past a large sand sheet, and toward the sulfate unit farther up the slopes of Mt. Sharp that Curiosity will be exploring in the future,” Guzewich adds. “The sulfate unit is the last unexplored region that originally led to Gale Crater’s selection as the landing site for Curiosity.”

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera image taken on Sol 2777, May 29, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Wrapping up activities

Before driving this Sunday, Curiosity is wrapping up activities at Glasgow with a very full science plan and the opportunity to complete several activities that are rather infrequent.

A series of observations with Mastcam and Navcam will monitor sand and dust motion on the surface.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo taken on Sol 2775, May 27, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“We call these ‘change detection’ images and they help inform us about how Mars’ many sand dunes form and move and how the surface has been eroded over billions of years of history,” Guzewich notes.

Argon monitoring

Curiosity’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) will monitor the atmosphere.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo taken on Sol 2775, May 27, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“Usually, APXS is placed down on the surface for contact science on a rock target, but the instrument is also sensitive to argon, a trace gas in both Earth’s and Mars’ atmospheres,” Guzewich explains. “Because of Mars’ climate, where a large amount of the atmosphere freezes onto the polar caps in winter, the relative amount of argon in the atmosphere changes, and APXS can monitor that cycle.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo taken on Sol 2775, May 27, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo taken on Sol 2775, May 27, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Storm watch

Lastly, Mars researchers have planned a Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) observation (a “passive sky”) where they use ChemCam, without the laser, to look at the atmosphere and monitor how gases like water vapor and dust amounts change seasonally.

“We’re in the early portion of the dusty season on Mars,” Guzewich concludes, “so we’re keeping a close eye on the sky to watch for storms.”

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