Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 2171, September 14, 2018
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has just begun Sol 2217 science activities.

Melissa Rice, a planetary geologist at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, reports that the full Curiosity science team is back in swing of things following the rover’s anomaly back on Sol 2172.

Curiosity Mastcam Right photo acquired on Sol 2211 October 25, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSSNASA’s 

“It has been over a month since we last looked at the ‘workspace,’ the region in front of the rover that the arm can reach,” Rice says, “and there were some surprises in store for us!”

Wind sweep

Prior to the robot’s anomaly, the rock eyed by Curiosity was covered with gray-colored tailings from a failed attempt to drill the “Inverness” target, however, those tailings are now gone – and so is a lot of the dark brown soil and reddish dust.

“So while Curiosity has been sitting still, the winds have been moving, sweeping the workspace clean,” Rice adds.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left A image taken on Sol 2216, October 31, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Later this week, the plan calls for Curiosity to take advantage of this freshly-scrubbed surface by taking close-up Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) images of fine details in the rock, including the light-toned veins crisscrossing the outcrop that are peppered with interesting dark inclusions.

Curiosity Navcam Right A image acquired on Sol 2214, October 29, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ripple field

As the science team eased back into science operations, on the plan is taking MAHLI images with the cover open and closed to inspect how much dust is on the cover, a MAHLI image of the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) ultraviolet sensor, a Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) observation of the vein target “Grange,” and some Mastcam images of the nearby ripple field “Sandend” to look for more changes due to the wind.

Curiosity Navcam Right A photo acquired on Sol 2214, October 29, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As a long-term planner, Rice explains there’s excitement for a new drive by Curiosity to a selected spot where it can successfully drill into the gray rock.

Concludes Rice: “Soon the wind won’t be the only thing moving around here!”

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