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

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is presently performing Sol 2483 duties.

Reports Mariah Baker, a planetary geologist at Johns Hopkins University, the robot is currently located in the southern part of the “Visionarium,” with planning underway to start the next drill campaign.

Curiosity Mastcam left image taken on Sol 2481 of target for weekend drilling.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“And we can’t help but take in the scenery! Perched on top of a small escarpment, we have arguably one of the best backdrops we have ever had during a drill campaign,” Baker adds. “The stunning panoramic views of Mount Sharp and surrounding terrains could truly take one’s breath away – if the lack of oxygen wasn’t enough!”

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2483, August 1, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Drillable rocks

Curiosity embarked on drill Sol 1, which meant the team was focused on locating and prioritizing drillable rocks in the rover’s workspace.

The target “Glen Etive 1” was selected as the primary drill option; Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam), Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), and Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) measurements on Glen Etive 1 will provide information on the geologic and chemical properties of this rock before Curiosity starts to drill.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2483, July 31, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Distant sandstone

Baker notes that ChemCam will also target another spot on the same rock layer (“Glen Etive 2”) as well as a target on another outcrop nearby, “Ninian”.

Also in the plans were various Mastcam observations, such as documentation images of the three ChemCam targets, a stereo image of a layered rock target called “Liddel,” and a larger mosaic image of a distant sandstone unit, Baker reports.

Curiosity Navcam Right B image taken on Sol 2482, July 31, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A set of environmental measurements rounds out recent planning, including two Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) activities, Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) monitoring, and Navcam images to monitor dust loading and dust devil activity.

Curiosity Navcam Right B image taken on Sol 2482, July 31, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“The team is eager and ready to jump into drilling at this new location, especially given the picturesque backdrop we get to enjoy while we work,” Baker concludes. “And since a full drill campaign can last weeks, we can continue to revel in the beauty of Gale crater’s vast and diverse landscapes for at least a little while longer.”

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 2482, July 31, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech



Weekend drilling

In a new update, Lucy Thompson, a planetary geologist at University of New Brunswick, says there’s anticipation regarding drill hole number three, and maybe number four within Glen Torridon.

New planning has been focused on getting more compositional and textural information on top of this small ridge that we plan to attempt drilling at the weekend, Thompson adds.

“This ridge is representative of one of the units mapped from orbit prior to landing, the ‘fractured clay bearing unit.’ We previously drilled two holes into the ‘smooth clay bearing unit’ and it will be interesting to compare the composition and mineralogy of these orbitally distinct units to each other and with the rest of the Murray formation,” Thompson explains.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo acquired on Sol 2483, August 1, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL


Science targets

On tap is use of ChemCam to investigate the composition of two more spots (“Glen Dessary” and “Canisbay”) on the same block that scientists intend to drill to see if different layers have the same chemistry, and there will be Mastcam documentation imaging of these targets.

There’s potential for two separate contact science targets in a new plan and science team members are discussing whether they wanted two APXS and MAHLI targets or whether they want to devote one of those targets to MAHLI oblique imaging of the layers in the block they plan to drill – as opposed to imaging just the top surface.


“We decided to brush, get APXS and MAHLI on the second potential drill target ‘Glen Etive 2,’ and then do the MAHLI oblique imaging,” Thompson points out, “to hopefully inform us of the third dimension that we will encounter when we drill, as well as of any sedimentary structures present.”

Standard environmental activities rounded out the new plan with REMS, Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) and DAN active and passive measurements, Mastcam crater rim extinction and basic tau of the sun, and a Navcam suprahorizon movie, Thompson concludes.

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