Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image taken on Sol 1788, August 17, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now busy at work during Sol 1789.

Christopher Edwards, a planetary geologist from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona reports: “After completing a successful drive back to the strategic route to continue up the Vera Rubin Ridge, we arrived at a workspace filled with sand and a lone rock outcrop dubbed “Dumplings Island.”

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1788, August 17, 2017.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This rock outcrop was the focus of most of planned activities, including high resolution microscopic imaging with the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to characterize the outcrop’s particle size and small scale textures.

 

Compositional data point

Edwards adds that MAHLI, Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) observations are geared to understand the composition of the Dumplings Island outcrop, “providing another important compositional data point as Curiosity traverses the Vera Rubin Ridge stratigraphy.”

Curiosity Navcam Right B image taken on Sol 1788, August 17, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The rover has passed its “Slip Risk Assessment Process (SRAP)” with flying colors, Edwards notes, which was needed to carry out Curiosity’s robotic arm-based activities in a current plan.

 

Wheel slippage

After finishing the drive to its current location, the Mars machinery ended up on a relatively flat spot with its wheels in good contact with the sandy surface that likely overlies bedrock.

“As such, the likelihood of rover wheel slippage due to arm activities was judged to be very low,” Edwards adds.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1787, August 16, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Wiggle room – not much

Given the strong desire to continue to drive up the Vera Rubin Ridge, there was a trade off between extending the duration of science activities and extending the planned drive, Edwards explains. “As the plan was already quite busy, no additional science duration was able to be allocated and the rover only got a few more minutes of drive time. In all, there wasn’t much wiggle room in today’s plan! Not much additional imaging, other than that required to characterize the compositional targets, made it in to the plan either,” he reports.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) image from Sol 1788, August 17, 2017. MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Strategic route

The path for the coming sols should follow a pre-defined strategic route closely, due to the fact that there’s a lower slope gap in the steep cliffs of the Vera Rubin Ridge.

That being the case, it makes for a safe path to the top.

 

Concludes Edwards: “It should be an exciting next few days of planning with some great views once Curiosity makes it to the top of the ridge and can look out over the path that’s been driven in the past 5 years of Mars surface operations.”

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