Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2020,April 12, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2021 tasks.

Reports Ken Herkenhoff, a planetary geologist at the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona, a top science priority for researchers working the rover is to acquire all of the data needed to adequately characterize the rocks at the current location before the robot drives away.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 2020,April 12, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Recently discussed are priorities of various proposed observations, including a Right Mastcam mosaic of the arm workspace and surrounding area. Also on tap is use of the robot’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Laser-induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) targets, and a mosaic of the mid-field terrain toward the south.

Desired observations

“Fortunately, power modeling indicated that the pre-drive science block could be lengthened to 2 hours, which made it much easier to fit all of the desired observations into the plan,” Herkenhoff explains.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2019, April 11, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

First, ChemCam will measure the elemental chemistry of four nearby rock targets: “Ledmore 2,” “Minginish,” “Askival 3,” and “Tyndrum 3.”

Minginish has already been examined by Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS).

Variety of rocks

Then the Right Mastcam will take images of Askival 3 and Ledmore 2, as well as a 9×1 mosaic of “Lorne Plateau” (the area to the south), a large mosaic to provide complete coverage of the area in front of the rover, named “Bressay,” and a 3×3 mosaic of the “Jedburgh” area closer the rover toward the south.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 2020, April 12, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

“All these data will give the science team plenty to think about as we try to better understand the variety of rocks at Bressay,” Herkenhoff notes. “We are transitioning into restricted planning again, so the drive away from Bressay is planned on Sol 2020.”

The drive target is a conglomerate rock named “Waternish.”

Curiosity Mastcam Right image acquired on Sol 2019. April 11, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Post-drive duties

After the drive, early on Sol 2021, Mastcam will measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere and Navcam will search for clouds. Later that sol, Navcam will search for dust devils and Mastcam will measure dust opacity again.

This is to be followed by ChemCam acquiring calibration data and will use special software to autonomously select and acquire LIBS data on a target in the new arm workspace.

Finally, Curiosity’s Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) will take an image of the ground under the rover during twilight, to sample the terrain once again, Herkenhoff concludes.

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