Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2882, September 14, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2883 duties.

Reports Ryan Anderson, Planetary Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona:

“Our [Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite] TMAH experiment was successful! For those who don’t speak fluent rover team alphabet soup, as we described the other day, the SAM TMAH experiment is a long-awaited measurement by the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, which uses a special chemical called tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH) to help identify organic (carbon-bearing) molecules in the sample.”

Awaiting results

Anderson notes that SAM only has two containers of TMAH, “so we wanted to be very sure that this was the right place to use one of them before running the experiment. The team is now eagerly awaiting results which will take us several months to fully interpret.”

Meanwhile, rover operations carried out a busy weekend plan.

The rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) was slated to do an atmospheric observation as the European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter flew overhead, followed by a long-distance image mosaic of a target called “Housedon Hill.”

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo acquired on Sol 2882, September 14, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Looking for dust

The robot’s Navcam was scheduled to look toward the crater rim to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere and look for dust devils. Mastcam also had a dust-measuring observation of the sun in the weekend plan.

On Sol 2881 SAM was slated to clean out its gas chromatograph (GC) column (the tiny tube through which gases are passed to separate them based on their chemistry), and then on Sol 2882 the plan called for a recurring set of Navcam and Mastcam observations of the target “Le Ceasnachadh” at different times of day.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 2882, September 14, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

“These repeated observations allow us to better understand the ‘photometry’ or light-scattering behavior of the rocks,” Anderson explains.

Drill tailings

On Sol 2882, the rover’s Mastcam was to observe the target “Upper Ollach” and the Mary Anning drill tailings to look for any changes, and the robot was to perform a multispectral observation of the photometry target “Le Ceasnachadh”.

ChemCam was on tap to also observe that target using passive spectroscopy (no laser, just reflected light).

On Sol 2883, Curiosity is to perform early morning atmospheric observations, measuring dust with Navcam and Mastcam and watching for clouds with Navcam.

As always, dates of planned rover activities are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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