Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1612, February 17, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is conducting Sol 1612 science duties. The robot completed a drive of 75 feet (23 meter) on Sol 1611.

The Mars machinery ended up in an area with many bedrock blocks partly covered by dark sand, reports Ken Herkenhoff of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1612, February 17, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Holiday happenings

A two sol plan has been scripted to get a head start on planning for the holiday weekend, with the first sol strategically planned to allow the “touch and go” option, Herkenhoff adds.

“But there’s a ridge about 30 meters ahead that we can’t see over, and we would like to be able to drive up onto it on Sol 1612 to allow a drive past it to be planned this weekend,” Herkenhoff notes. “There isn’t enough time before the ‘decisional’ telecommunications opportunity to fit both contact science and a 30-meter drive into the plan, so we had to pick one of these two options.”

Lots of bedrock

Based on images taken from orbit and by the rover, lots of bedrock is exposed at the crest of the ridge 98 feet (30 meters) away.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, acquired this merged imagery on February 16, 2017, Sol 1611.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

That being the case, rover scientists picked the longer drive at the expense of contact science, hoping that Curiosity will be in a better place for contact science this weekend.

Before the drive, the rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and Right Mastcam will observe a bright/dark boundary on a block at the left side “Frenchville” and the Right Mastcam is slated to acquire a 2×2 mosaic of another block named “Third Lake.”

Post-drive plans

Following the drive, scientists plan fewer images to support weekend planning because the expected downlink data volume is much less than usual.

“We therefore spent more time than usual carefully prioritizing the post-drive images for downlink, and may not receive all of the data we need to plan contact science and a drive this weekend,” Herkenhoff reports.

Later in the afternoon of Sol 1612, ChemCam will again use special software to autonomously select a Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectrometer (LIBS) target and acquire a 3×3 set of chemical measurements.

Ireson Hill as seen by Curiosity’s Navcam Left B camera, taken on Sol 1612, February 17, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) software upgrade went well, so REMS environmental monitoring was on the schedule.

Overnight sleep-in

On Sol 1613, ChemCam will acquire passive calibration data, and Navcam will search for dust devils and clouds.

“Finally, the rover will sleep overnight in preparation for what we hope will be a busy weekend plan,” Herkenhoff concludes.

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