Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image acquired on Sol 1972, February 22, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now in Sol 1977.

“After a successful drill preload test, Curiosity was primed to drill for the first time in about a year,” reports Christopher Edwards, a planetary geologist at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

“Unfortunately, due to a light downlink from the Mars Odyssey spacecraft, we didn’t get all the images down needed to safely carry out the drill activity in this weekend’s plan,” Edwards added. “Instead, we’ll push the drill activity out until we get the needed images down to help ensure it will complete successfully! Until then the view of the arm preload activity provides tantalizing hints of great things to come.”

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo taken on Sol 1974, February 24, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Backup science plans

Edwards pointed out that just because researchers couldn’t carry out the drill activity as planned, that doesn’t mean the team would let the rover sit idle. “In fact, quite the opposite,” he said.

The science operations team started planning backup science activities. The team decided to carry out activities on two contact science targets with the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) as well as carry out Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) chemistry.

The targets — dubbed “Rockall” and “Benbecula” — will continue to help Mars scientists characterize the composition and fine-scale textures of the bedrock around the rover’s upcoming drill location.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 1971, February 21, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL



Bedrock variability

“These activities will provide valuable geologic context to the drill and help assess the variability of the bedrock in this area,” Edwards explains. A slew of Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) and rover Mastcam images are also being acquired to further this goal.

Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, produced this image on Sol 1974, February 24, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“It won’t be long until the other instruments inside the rover body get to sample the fantastic geology of the Vera Rubin Ridge,” Edwards concludes. “Stay tuned this coming week for the results of the drill activities. The science team can’t wait!”

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