Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 2023, April 15, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity rover is now performing Sol 2024 science duties.

Ken Herkenhoff, a planetary geologist; at the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona reports that the rover completed a Sol 2020 drive, “placing the vehicle in a good position for contact science on the ‘Waternish’ conglomerate.”

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 2023, April 15, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

To sample the diversity of clasts in Waternish, the Sol 2022 plan included brushing two spots, a 5-point Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) raster, and lots of Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) imaging. But first on tap was use of the rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) to laser shoot Waternish and the cobble behind it, named “Arrochar.”

Curiosity Mastcam Right image of rover brushes, taken on Sol 2022, April 14, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Complex arm activities

After Curiosity’s Dust Removal Tool (DRT) is finished brushing, MAHLI will acquire full suites of images of one of the brushed spots and of Arrochar, as well as a mosaic of images from 5 centimeters above the APXS raster spots and context images from 25 centimeters.

“Then APXS will go to work on Waternish, followed by placement on Arrochar for an overnight integration. This complex set of arm activities took longer than usual to plan, but should provide a rich dataset,” Herkenhoff notes.

Sandy ripple

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B photo acquired on Sol 2023, April 15, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On Sol 2023, the plan called for the rover’s Mastcam to take a full multispectral set of images of Waternish and a 3×3 mosaic of both Waternish and Arrochar.

ChemCam was to observe two more spots on Waternish, and the Right Mastcam will take an image of the ChemCam target selected by the robot’s exploration software on Sol 2021.

“Then the rover will drive backwards to a nearby sandy ripple, un-stow its arm, and acquire the images needed to plan close-up observations of the ripple. Overnight, APXS will again measure the amount of argon in the atmosphere,” Herkenhoff explains.

Dust and dust devils

On Sol 2024, the plan has the robot’s ChemCam gathering calibration data. Mastcam will measure the opacity of dust in the atmosphere, and Navcam will search for dust devils.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) image produced on Sol 2023, April 15, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS




Lastly, APXS will perform a short thermal test and Curiosity’s Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) is to take another twilight image, Herkenhoff concludes. “Another busy weekend for our intrepid explorer!”





Traverse map

A recently released Curiosity traverse map through Sol 2020 shows the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 2020 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (April 13, 2018).

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

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 2017 to Sol 2020, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 34.85 feet (10.62 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 11.61 miles (18.69 kilometers).

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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