Curiosity Navcam Left B photo acquired on Sol 2483, August 1, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech



NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2484 tasks.

Mark Salvatore, a planetary geologist at the University of Michigan, reports that weekend drilling is in the plan.

Scientists have been largely interested in characterizing the large block of exposed bedrock in front of the rover to derive as much information as possible before the robot punches through the surface and exposes the rock’s interior, Salvatore adds.

Curiosity Navcam Right B image taken on Sol 2483, August 1, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Spatial variability

Curiosity has brushed the dust off of the rock and made some geochemical measurements using the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument.

A recent plan, Salvatore notes, called for acquiring a multispectral image of this brushed surface in addition to two remote laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) measurements of the bedrock’s chemistry to determine whether there is spatial variability in the chemistry of this geologic unit.

Enigmatic feature

“We also have an opportunity to acquire a large Mastcam mosaic of the large and flat geologic feature to the south of Curiosity known as the Greenheugh pediment,” Salvatore explains. “This enigmatic feature has been a target of interest ever since Gale crater was first being considered as a potential landing site for the Curiosity rover, and so documenting it from this new vantage point has been a high priority for the geologists on the team.”

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 2484, August 2, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Ground controllers have placed Curiosity in a good place to drill this unit over the weekend, Salvatore reports, followed by several additional days to document the new drill hole and the tailings.

“If all goes well, we should receive additional geologic data from the rover’s instruments on the mineralogy of this unit sometime next week,” Salvatore concludes. “It’ll be great to compare this location with the other drill holes acquired since the investigation of Vera Rubin ridge.”

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