Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image taken on Sol 1933, January 13, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Now at the end of Sol 1933 operations, Curiosity has made it to “Region e” of the Vera Rubin Ridge (VRR) campaign, reports Mark Salvatore, a planetary geologist from the University of Michigan in Dearborn.

Curiosity Rear Hazcam Right B photo acquired on Sol 1933, January 13, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“This location is a slight depression with exposed fractured bedrock that appears more ‘blue’ from orbit than the surrounding region,” Salvatore notes. In addition, the orbital evidence and observations from the ground suggest that this location is similar to ‘Region 10’ that was visited recently, “which was shown to have some pretty spectacular small-scale features that were of particular interest to many on the science team.

As a result, the team is very excited to reach “Region e” and begin a focused scientific investigation.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1932, January 12, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

MAVEN relay

During the first day of the current plan, Curiosity will focus on acquiring a large amount of high-resolution Mast Camera (Mastcam) color images of the area immediately in front of the rover, the “mid-range” region a few meters in front of the rover, and the entirety of Mt. Sharp.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1932, January 12, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

“This is an anomalous amount of data to collect at a given time, but we are able to do so thanks to the help of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) spacecraft, which will be helping us to downlink those images over the course of the next week,” Salvatore adds.

With the exception of the Mt. Sharp images, Salvatore says, the other data are to characterize any small-scale geologic features present within “Region e,” and the plan was to have those images back to Earth at last week’s end.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) produced on Sol 1933, January 13, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Dust off

In the afternoon of the first day, the plan called for Curiosity’s arm to characterize an unfractured piece of bedrock in front of the rover named “Unst.”

The robot’s Dust Removal Tool (DRT) was slated to remove any surface dust, image the patch of bedrock with the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) instrument, and then place the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument on the target for an overnight integration to derive its bulk chemistry.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo acquired on Sol 1933. January 13, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Knobby bedrock

On the second day of the scripted plan, Curiosity was set to utilize its Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) to remotely acquire chemistry data on two targets of interest.

The first will be “Canna,” a knobby piece of bedrock, and the second will be “Aberfoyle,” the flattest portion of this blocky region in front of the rover.

Aberfoyle will also be the target of an APXS measurement that evening.

Mastcam will be used to document these targets, in addition to the automated ChemCam observation that was obtained two days earlier.

Layered rock

“The ‘Aberfoyle’ ChemCam observation is beneficial for two reasons. First, we will be acquiring additional chemical measurements of this target that will be analyzed with APXS. Second, the laser blasts of ChemCam will help to remove any surface dust on the target, which will allow APXS to more confidently measure the bedrock composition with minimal input from the fine-grained dust,” Salvatore reports.

After this suite of measurements, the arm was scheduled to be moved into position to image the “Canna” target, the “Aberfoyle” target, and also a nearby layered rock named “Funzie.” After these images are acquired, the APXS instrument will be placed on “Aberfoyle” for an overnight integration.

Unique patterns

On the final day of the plan, Salvatore adds that ChemCam will analyze the chemistry of the “Unst” target (which was analyzed by APXS on the first evening of the plan), the “Funzie” target (to determine if there are any compositional variations associated with the observed layers), and a new target named “Morar,” which is a piece of bedrock that shows some unique patterns that might be due to fracturing, the presence of veins, and/or sculpting by the wind.

After the ChemCam observations, the plan calls for acquisition of Mastcam documentation images, and then make environmental observations with Mastcam and Navcam to hunt for dust devils and to assess the amount of dust in the air.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Traverse map

Meanwhile, a new Curiosity traverse map through Sol 1930 has been issued.

This map shows the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 1930 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (January 10, 2018).

Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up. The scale bar is 1 kilometer (~0.62 mile).

From Sol 1928 to Sol 1930, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 63.65 feet (19.40 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 11.19 miles (18.01 kilometers).

The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

 

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