ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 2225, November 9, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now in Sol 2225 following a successful drilling in the “Highfield” target.

Reports Claire Newman, an atmospheric scientist at Aeolis Research in Pasadena, California: “Our eighteenth drill hole in the martian surface!”

“Not quite a ‘hole in one,’ as we tried to sample the same gray Jura rock type about 50 sols ago, but we finally have a sample of our highest value target on Vera Rubin Ridge,” Newman adds. “Rather than retreat to the club house for a well-earned celebration, however, Curiosity and the team stayed busy in Sol 2225, doing Mastcam and Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) imaging of the new drill hole and tailings.”

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left A image acquired on Sol 2224, November 8, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Weekend plan

A weekend plan calls for further imaging of the drill hole and use of ChemCam’s Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectrometer (LIBS). Samples are to be dropped off to the rover’s Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) for further analysis.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right A photo acquired on Sol 2225, November 9, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“In addition, there’s a packed program of environmental science over the next few sols, now that we’re back to full science operations,” Newman explains. “The global dust storm may have decayed, but we’re still interested in seeing whether the post-storm atmosphere differs compared to the same season in previous Mars years when no big storm occurred.”

Curiosity Navcam Right A photo acquired on Sol 2225, November 9, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Convective vortices

Newman points out that the robot is still in the middle of southern summer, which means lots of ‘dust devils’ (dust-filled convective vortices) and more dust than usual in the atmosphere.

“So in addition to our regular meteorological (REMS), radiation (RAD), and sub-surface (DAN) monitoring, we added atmospheric opacity measurements and a 360° dust devil survey,” Newman adds. “Over the weekend, alongside the drill sample analysis, there will be a bumper crop of atmospheric activities.”

Sky survey

Those activities include characterizing the amount and size distribution of dust and water ice aerosols at different times of sol, in and above the crater, by means of a Mastcam ‘sky survey’ and opacity measurements, a ChemCam ‘passive sky’ activity, and Navcam cloud movies. “We’ll also take a dust devil movie as well as two more dust devil surveys.” Newman says.

Martian wind

“And finally, over the next few sols we’ll be watching those drill tailings to see how quickly the martian wind moves them away and in what direction,” Newman says.

Curiosity Navcam Left A image acquired on Sol 2225, November 9, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Also to be taken by Curiosity are ‘change detection’ images of below the rover with the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI), and of nearby grains and ripples with Mastcam, “again to see what the wind is doing at this time of year in our current location on the slope of Aeolis Mons,” Newman concludes.

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