Curiosity Mastcam Left photo acquired on Sol 2060, May 23, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2063 duties.

Reports Ken Herkenhoff, a planetary geologist at the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona, some of the Duluth drill sample was dropped into the robot’s Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin), but not enough for a proper mineralogical analysis.

So the top priority in a newly scripted plan is to again test the new drop-off procedure.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 2061, May 24, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Sample transfer issue

Since the drill feed mechanism became unreliable over a year ago, Herkenhoff adds, drill samples can no longer be sieved and processed in the Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA) device as they were earlier in the mission. CHIRMA is attached to the turret at the end of Curiosity’s robotic arm.

“Instead, portions of the sample must be dropped from the tip of the drill directly into the analytical instruments,” Herkenhoff explains. This new Feed-Extended Sample Transfer (FEST) procedure will be repeated on Sol 2064, over bedrock and over the closed Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite inlet cover.

“Mastcam images will be taken both before and after the drop-off in both locations, to allow the size of the sample portion to be estimated. The results of these tests will be used to inform future drop-off planning,” Herkenhoff adds.

Curiosity Mastcam Right photo taken on Sol 2059, May 22, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Change detection observations

Mars researchers have planned for four sols of rover work so that the tactical operations team can take a day off for the Memorial Day holiday.

More change detection observations are scattered throughout the plan, with Right Mastcam images of dark sand ripples at “Noodle Lake” and the Duluth drill tailings on Sol 2063 at various times; the same for Sol 2064 and Sol 2065.

“The goal of these observations is to constrain the frequency of wind gusts that are strong enough to move loose material. The Rover Planners also requested multiple Right Mastcam images of the sample drop-off location on nearby bedrock for the same purpose,” Herkenhoff says. These are scheduled in the afternoons of Sols 2063, 2065, and 2066.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 2061, May 24, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Bumpy bedrock

Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will also be busy this weekend, measuring the chemistry of a bumpy bedrock target named “Brule Mountain” and layered bedrock targets “Devil Track” and “Devilfish Tower” on Sol 2063.

The latter two targets will be captured in a single Right Mastcam image soon afterward.

On Sol 2064, ChemCam will observe some pebbles dubbed “Paupores” and Right Mastcam will acquire a single image covering both Brule Mountain and Paupores.

Early on Sol 2065, Mastcam and Navcam will measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, and Navcam will search for clouds. Later that morning, Right Mastcam will take a picture of a nearby bedrock block dubbed “Deerwood.” In the afternoon, Mastcam will image the Sun and sky to measure the scattering properties and size distribution of dust in the atmosphere over Gale Crater, with supporting Navcam imaging, Herkenhoff concludes.

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