Curiosity: Back on-line after solar conjunction. Credit: NASA/JPL/USGS

Curiosity: Back on-line after solar conjunction.
Credit: NASA/JPL/USGS

“Mars has passed through solar conjunction, and reliable communication with the spacecraft at Mars is possible again,” explains Ken Herkenhoff, a member of the Curiosity Mars rover team.

As the team starts implementing the Sol 1027 plan, the NASA Curiosity rover’s Mastcam observations of several targets that were imaged just before solar conjunction are being reviewed – a look is underway to spot changes caused by winds or maybe Marsquakes, Herkenhoff notes.

Ground controllers were waiting for more data to be relayed by Mars orbiters to confirm that Curiosity is ready to resume science planning. But ground controllers have proceeded with tactical planning so that they would be ready when the data arrived.

This image was taken by Mastcam: Right (MAST_RIGHT) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 1027 (2015-06-27 09:13:00 UTC).   Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This image was taken by Mastcam: Right (MAST_RIGHT) onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 1027 (2015-06-27 09:13:00 UTC).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

 

Nearby targets

Herkenhoff of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, said the rover’s Mastcam is slated to look at the Sun to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere.

Also, Curiosity’s Navcam will search for dust devils, and ChemCam/Mastcam will observe nearby targets “Piegan” and “Wallace.”

This image was taken by ChemCam: Remote Micro-Imager (CHEMCAM_RMI) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 1027 (2015-06-27 08:30:21 UTC).   Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

This image was taken by ChemCam: Remote Micro-Imager (CHEMCAM_RMI) onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 1027 (2015-06-27 08:30:21 UTC).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

On Sol 1028, the camera-carrying Curiosity robot arm will be used to take up-close images of the rocks and soil in front of the rover from various vantage points, to measure changes in their reflectance.

After dusk, rover instruments will measure three spots on a rock called “Big Arm” that was imaged during the day before solar conjunction.

Lastly, nighttime images, using LEDs for illumination, should “nicely complement” the daytime images of the rock, Herkenhoff said.

Back in action

Finishing off the weekend plan, on Sol 1029 the rover’s ChemCam instrument will acquire some calibration data and Mastcam will take a stereo mosaic of the outcrops to the east of the rover.

Overall, the word from the Curiosity downlink team is that the data acquired during conjunction show that the rover is in good health, and that the rover team is “go” for planning.

Bottom line from Herkenhoff: Curiosity “is back in action!”

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