Curiosity Navcam Left A photo acquired on Sol 2256, December 11, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2256 tasks.

The hunt for red Jura continues reports Rachel Kronyak, a planetary geologist; University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

“After a successful weekend of activities and driving, we were hopeful that we would wake up on Sol 2256 and be ready for contact science and drilling,” Kronyak adds. “Unfortunately, Mars had other plans; similar to Friday’s planning, our workspace turned out to be just as fractured and unsuitable for drilling, so onward we go in search for a drill target elsewhere (again)!”

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left A image acquired on Sol 2256, December 11, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Third time’s the charm?

The first two attempts at finding drillable red Jura were unlucky, so this time, Curiosity will try its luck and head towards a third candidate drill location, called “Region C.”

“Fingers crossed that the third time’s the charm,” Kronyak says.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2255, December 10, 2018. MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The plan for Sol 2256 includes a nice long science block before the rover’s drive. During the science block, the robot’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will collect data on two targets: “Sandy Haven,” a small soil patch, and “Tarness Haven,” a block of reddish outcrop in front of the rover.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2255, December 10, 2018. MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Line of sight

“We’ll also acquire a Mastcam multispectral mosaic looking ahead towards Region C to assess for color variations that will help us determine where the best red Jura location for drilling may be,” Kronyak points out. “The environmental group will also be acquiring some Navcam observations to monitor the atmosphere; these include a line of sight image and a dust devil movie.”

After the science block, Curiosity will drive towards Region C. Halfway through the drive Curiosity will stop for some Mastcam and Navcam imaging to assess the upcoming terrain.

Parking spot

“Once we get to our final parking spot, we’ll take some additional images to assess the ground in front of us,” Kronyak concludes. “Together, these mid- and post-drive images will inform whether we drill at Region C or continue on in the search for red Jura. Stay tuned!”

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo taken on Sol 2255, December 10, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Tactical decisions

In an earlier report, Mariah Baker, a planetary geologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, obtaining higher resolution images of the exposure of red Jura will help the team determine if it could be drilled next week.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo acquired on Sol 2256, December 11, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

“Making these tactical decisions requires a lot of quick thinking; the team must weigh immediate scientific priorities with long-term goals, and must try to determine the best potential drill target with limited data,” Baker notes.

“We never know exactly what we will find when we arrive at a new site, so the best we can do is use long distance imaging and lessons learned from previous sites to make an educated decision on where to send the rover next,” Baker concludes. “Hopefully this plan will put us in a good position on Monday to either drill the new outcrop or continue on our strategic path.”

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