Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1352, May 26, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1352, May 26, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now in Sol 1353. Landing on the Red Planet in August 2012, the robot has wheeled some 8 miles since touchdown.

After a recent drive, the Mars machinery  took Sol 1352 imagery that shows there are sandy ripples ahead, and enough rocky patches that the rover should not have any problem driving toward the southwest, reports Ken Herkenhoff of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

“This is what we were hoping, so we are planning to drive in that direction on Sol 1353,” Herkenhoff explains.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1353, May 27, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1353, May 27, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

But firstly, Curiosity’s Mastcam was slated to acquire stereo mosaics of the “Murray-Stimson” contact and a couple of areas toward the west with nodular features.

Auto-suggest

Post-drive, the rover’s Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) will again autonomously measure the chemistry of a target selected by the Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science, or AEGIS software.

To get a head start on planning for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, two sols are to be scripted, Herkenhoff reports. The Sol 1353 activities cannot be precisely targeted, he notes, so the rover’s Navcam will look for clouds and Mastcam will measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere at various times that sol.

In addition, ChemCam will perform a routine calibration activity.

As always, dates of planned rover activities are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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

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

Driving distance

Meanwhile, a new map of Curiosity’s location for Sol 1352 has been issued.

The map shows the route driven by the automaton through the 1352 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (May, 26, 2016).

Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up.

From Sol 1349 to Sol 1352, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 53.00 feet (16.16 meters). Since touching down in Bradbury Landing in August 2012, Curiosity has driven 7.97 miles (12.83 kilometers).

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

Close encounter of the Mars kind

Three images of Mars acquired this month by two cameras in space and one from Earth. The image at left was taken on May 22 by amateur astrophotographer Dylan O’Donnell from his home-built backyard observatory in Byron Bay, New South Wales. Image at center was acquired by the Visual Monitoring Camera on Europe's Mars Express orbiter on May 22, some eight hours after Dylan conducted his observation.Image at right was acquired by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope on May 12th. Credits: D. O'Donnell - ESA/Mars Express/VMC CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO - ESA/NASA/Hubble

Three images of Mars acquired this month by two cameras in space and one from Earth.
The image at left was taken on May 22 by amateur astrophotographer Dylan O’Donnell from his home-built backyard observatory in Byron Bay, New South Wales. Image at center was acquired by the Visual Monitoring Camera on Europe’s Mars Express orbiter on May 22, some eight hours after Dylan conducted his observation.Image at right was acquired by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope on May 12th.
Credits: D. O’Donnell – ESA/Mars Express/VMC CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO – ESA/NASA/Hubble

For you skywatchers, Mars makes its closest visit to Earth in 11 years on Monday, May 30th.

The Red Planet will be closest to our planet since 2005 – a mere 46,762,695 miles (75,279,709 km) away as it continues its 687-day elliptical orbit around the Sun.

Mars is quite photogenic due to the closeness between the two planets. Its proximity is spurring detailed imagery of Mars, such as from the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope – photos that reveal rarely seen weather conditions.

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