Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 2435, June 13, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2437 duties.

“We are investigating the ridges which are such a prominent feature in this section of Glen Torridon,” reports Catherine O’Connell, a planetary geologist at the University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

The ridge, with Mount Sharp in the background. Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2436, June 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“The ridges appear to be composed of sand and pebbles, capped with layered bedrock. The Rover Planners (RPs) at JPL assessed the ridge imaged, known as ‘Teal,’ and gave a go for driving up onto it,” O’Connell adds.

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2436, June 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Two drives

The ascent by the rover was broken into two drives. “The RPs got us exactly to where we wanted to be for this plan, and we ended up on a very small outcrop of more coherent bedrock, surrounded by pebbles and sand,” O’Connell points out. “Those of us in the Geology theme group were very excited to find ourselves here, as this is the most substantial piece of bedrock we have seen this week.”

Curiosity’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) will analyze the “Iapetus” target on the bedrock, and do a 2-point raster “Almond” across small grey pebbles and sand.

The rover was too close to Iapetus to allow the robot’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) to shoot it with the Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) laser without danger to the rover, O’Connell notes, so ChemCam focused on documenting pebbles here, looking at the targets “Angus,” “Braan,” and “Tweed.” A Mastcam multispectral image, using multiple filter types, will examine spectral variability of the pebbles and sand between Tweed and Almond.

Curiosity Rear Hazcam Left B image taken on Sol 2436, June 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Rubbly material

“Before climbing up onto the ridge, Mastcam will take some color imagery, looking at the rubbly material in the lower part of the ridge,” O’Connell reports, “and documenting the transition from the rubbly material to the capping material.”

Curiosity’s drive will hopefully take scientists bedrock, and once there, will acquire imagery (Mastcam and Navcam) of the rover’s new workspace and future drive direction, to be ready for a full week of exploration on top of this ridge when the robot comes back after the weekend.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo acquired on Sol 2436, June 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

“Mastcam will also get a post-drive image of the workspace under one of our wheels, as part of a long-running observation of bedrock, pebbles, and soils along our traverse,” O’Connell says.

Environmental sensing

The Environmental theme group (ENV) planned paired Mastcam observations for each sol of the plan, to determine the amount of dust in the crater (“crater rim extinction” measurements) and to measure the optical depth of the atmosphere and constrain aerosol scattering properties (“full tau” measurements).

The Rover Environmental Monitoring System (REMS) will acquire hourly temperature, pressure, humidity, and UV radiation measurements.

DAN (Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons) continues its search for subsurface hydrogen, with frequent passive (utilizing cosmic rays as a source of neutrons to measure hydrogen) and post-drive active (actively shooting neutrons from the rover) measurements.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2436, June 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Cloud movies

“Finally, ENV planned a number of movies, used to document clouds and dust devils,” O’Connell concludes. “Zenith” cloud movies look upwards, whilst “suprahorizon” movies look at clouds and variations in optical depth in a more horizontal direction.

“Dust devil movies can give information on surface heating and winds near the surface,” O’Connell adds.

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