Curioisty Mastcam Left image acquired on Sol 1985, March 7, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Seasons make a big difference for Mars vistas, reports Roger Wiens, Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) principal investigator and geochemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The Red Planet is halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox in the southern hemisphere where the robot now resides.

“The atmosphere around the globe is the clearest in southern winter. Once spring starts, turbulence increases and dust storms begin,” Wiens points out.

Curiosity is now performing Sol 1987 science tasks.

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 1986, March 8, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Clear skies

Curiosity science teams are taking advantage of the clear skies to take long-distance ChemCam Remote Micro Imager (RMI) telescope mosaics of the terrain on Mt. Sharp and on the crater rim.

“We are especially interested in a Mt. Sharp unit characterized by features that look like yardangs, which are typically wind-sculpted elongated features in a landscape that is experiencing erosion,” Wiens adds. “We’re also very interested in the apparent fluvial channels seen descending from the crater rim.”

Curioisty Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 1985, March 7, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The rover’s Navcam has already been used to image at least two channels.

“We are curious…when was the last time that water flowed down these channels? Was it steady flow, or catastrophic? Is there evidence of snow and ice,” Wiens questions, “or was the water more likely delivered as rain?”

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B photo taken on Sol 1986, March 8, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Gravel underfoot

Under clear skies, Curiosity has recently driven close to 100 feet (30 meters) and is now stationed on a gravelly patch of ground.


“The rover is heading northeast along the top of Vera Rubin Ridge. With only gravel underfoot, the arm instrument teams decided to forgo contact science at this location,” Wiens explains.

On the plan is for the robot to use ChemCam and Mastcam to observe small bedrock targets “Sgurr nan Gilean” and “Braemar.” Mastcam will use optical filters to observe the latter target.

Slight downhill drive

After a planned long northerly and slightly downhill drive aiming for nearly 270 feet (82 meters), Curiosity is slated to image the surroundings, done by Hazcam, Navcam, and Mastcam. It will include a Mastcam clast survey.

Also on the plan, the Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) software will use the Navcam images to pick a target for ChemCam investigation.

On the second sol of this plan ChemCam will take long-distance images of the yardang unit on Mt. Sharp and of the Peace Vallis area.

Navcam will take several movies to look for dust devils and thin clouds. The rover’s Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN), Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), and Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) will also take data.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

New traverse map

Meanwhile, a new map has been issued that shows the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 1985 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission as of March 8, 2018.

Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up. The scale bar is 1 kilometer (~0.62 mile).

From Sol 1962 to Sol 1985, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 93.78 feet (28.59 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission that began in August 2012 to 11.33 miles (18.23 kilometers).

The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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