Curiosity Navcam Right B image taken on Sol 1533, November 28, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Navcam Right B image taken on Sol 1533, November 28, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Update Dec. 1st: Now in Sol 1536, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has completed a cross-contamination experiment and cleaning of CHIMRA went well, “so we are ready to drill into the Precipice target!”

That’s the word from Ken Herkenhoff of the USGS.

Past drilling activities have made use of both rotation and percussion, but percussion has caused intermittent short circuits occasionally since Sol 911. Being the case, the Sol 1536 plan calls for testing the ability of the drill to acquire a sample using rotation only, without percussion.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1535, November 30, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1535, November 30, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

“We expect that the Precipice target is soft enough that the experiment will go well, but of course we won’t know until we try! Drilling and associated imaging will require enough power and time that additional observations could not be added to the plan,” Herkenhoff adds.

The rover had a productive Thanksgiving weekend, reports Lauren Edgar, a research geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Dump pile

During Sol 1534, the plan was to use the robot’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) of the post-sieve dump pile from the previous drill sample (“Sebina”).

Drill time on Mars! Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1534, November 29, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Drill time on Mars! Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1534, November 29, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

That was to be followed by acquisition of Chemistry & Camera observations and Mastcam multispectral observation of the dump pile, Edgar notes.

In addition, the rover was on tap to clean out any remnants of the previous sample in order to prepare for a new one.

Linear feature

Also slated was use of ChemCam’s long distance Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) to produce a mosaic that investigates a linear feature observed from the powerful HiRISE camera system onboard the high-flying NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1534, November 29, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1534, November 29, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The full drill hole is planned for Sol 1536, Edgar explains.

New word from Ken Herkenhoff, also of the USGS, is that the current drill campaign continues to go smoothly.

Cross-contamination experiment

A Sol 1535 plan was dominated by an experiment to see if any Sebina sample material is left inside the drill bit chamber from the previous drilling. “This is motivated by the fact that we only used vibration to transfer that sample from the drill bit assembly into CHIMRA [the Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis device] rather than also using percussion.

“So it’s a “cross-contamination experiment” designed to see if the vibration didn’t do a complete job back when we first drilled Sebina,” Herkenhoff says. “Lots of images of the sieve and other parts of CHIMRA will be taken to verify that the system is clean.”

Laser shots

These activities will take a fair amount of time and power, Herkenhoff adds, but scientists were able to squeeze a few remote science observations into the plan. ChemCam will shoot its laser at bedrock targets named “West Tremont” and “Eastern Head,” and the Right Mastcam will image the same targets.

Zap patrol: The Laser-Induced Remote Sensing for Chemistry and Micro-Imaging instrument identifies atomic elements in martian rocks. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/J.-L. Lacour, CEA

Zap patrol: The Laser-Induced Remote Sensing for Chemistry and Micro-Imaging instrument identifies atomic elements in martian rocks.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/J.-L. Lacour, CEA

Curiosity’s Left Mastcam will also examine fracture patterns at “Sawyer’s Cove.” Finally, Navcam will search for clouds north of the rover.

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

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