Five years since it landed near Mount Sharp on Mars in August 2017 and nearly three years since reaching the base of the mountain, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is climbing toward multiple layers of Mount Sharp visible in this view from the rover’s Mast Camera.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Now in Sol 1780, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has entered its first full day of operations after conjunction and the fifth anniversary of its landing in August 2012.

“Curiosity remained healthy over the month long break, so without missing a beat, Curiosity is ready to resume the Vera Rubin Ridge imaging campaign and the trek up Mt. Sharp,” reports Michael Battalio, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.


Drill feed testing

First in a new plan are several drill feed tests that will take up the bulk of the plan’s time.

The geology group is resuming regular science activities by investigating a couple of targets with the rover’s Mastcam, Battalio adds, to look for changes over conjunction, including “Bodge Sands” and “Machias Bay.”

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image acquired on Sol 1779, August 8, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity’s ChemCam is set to target “Huckins Ledge” and “Mackerel Ledge,” with Mastcam providing additional imaging of those targets.

Sky Crane lowers Curiosity Mars rover onto the surface of the Red Planet on August 6, 2012, 05:17 UTC.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


“Tuesday is a ‘soliday’ to adjust the timing of the slightly longer Mars day back to a regular Earth schedule, so there will be no tactical planning,” Battalio notes. “Waiting for conjunction to finish requires patience from everyone,” he points out, but it is especially frustrating for the Mars environmental scientists.

Unlike the geology group who can confidently know that all the science in front of them before conjunction will still be there once regular communication resumes, “the weather on Mars keeps happening regardless of whether we actively direct Curiosity to observe or not,” Battalio explains.

Self-portrait of Curiosity located at the foothill of Mount Sharp back on October 6, 2015.

The first plan for the rover ensures that the gap of environmental observations was as short as possible. Navcam will image for clouds, scan for dust devils across the crater basin, and measure dust towards the crater rim.

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