Dated January 19, 2016, this self-portrait of NASA’s car-size Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at “Namib Dune.” This is a locale where the rover’s activities included scuffing into the dune with a wheel and scooping samples of sand for laboratory analysis. This new selfie combines 57 images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of Curiosity’s arm. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Dated January 19, 2016, this self-portrait of NASA’s car-size Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at “Namib Dune.” This is a locale where the rover’s activities included scuffing into the dune with a wheel and scooping samples of sand for laboratory analysis. This new selfie combines 57 images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of Curiosity’s arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is entering Sol 1239, with ground controllers still trying to troubleshoot a problem with the arm-mounted Collection and Handling for In-situ Martian Rock Analysis device – CHIMRA for short.

Soil samples are acquired with CHIMRA’s clam-shell scoop mechanism.

Diagram of CHIMRA, showing the scoop in an open position (indicated here in red). Credit: NASA/JPL

Diagram of CHIMRA, showing the scoop in an open position (indicated here in red).
Credit: NASA/JPL

The CHIMRA is a device that sieves and portions the samples from the scoop and the drill which are then distributed to the analytical instruments, the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite and the Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin). Various chambers and labyrinths within the mechanism are used to sort and sieve the drilled rock or scooped soil material.

 

Backlog of data

On Friday, Ryan Anderson, a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona and a member of the Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) team on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), reported:

“Since the anomaly with CHIMRA is still being investigated, there was no science involving the arm in today’s plan. Still, there was plenty to do, and we had to be careful not to collect too much extra data because there is a backlog of data on the rover waiting to be downlinked to Earth.”

 

The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the robotic arm of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover used electric lights at night on Jan. 22, 2016, to illuminate this postage-stamp-size view of Martian sand grains dumped on the ground after sorting with a sieve. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the robotic arm of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used electric lights at night on Jan. 22, 2016, to illuminate this postage-stamp-size view of Martian sand grains dumped on the ground after sorting with a sieve.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSSOn Friday, Ryan Anderson, a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona and a member of the Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) team on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), reported:“Since the anomaly with CHIMRA is still being investigated, there was no science involving the arm in today’s plan. Still, there was plenty to do, and we had to be careful not to collect too much extra data because there is a backlog of data on the rover waiting to be downlinked to Earth.”

Fine-scaled layering

Looking ahead to Sol 1239, the plan calls for observations of a target called “Gosser Schroffenstein” in the area called “Mniszechis Vlei.”

That site is where the rover’s “wheel scuff” in the sand exposed a tiny scarp or cliff in the sand, Anderson explains. “This little scarp gives us a good view of the fine-scaled layering in the top few centimeters of the dune,” he adds.

Anderson points out that once the science is done on Sol 1239 there is additional diagnostics on the balky CHIMRA. Later in the day on Sol 1239, Curiosity’s Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) is on tap to analyze some of the sand that was collected previously.

Also slated are long-distance Remote Microscopic Imager (RMI) mosaics of Mt. Sharp.

Curiosity's Mastcam Right image taken on January 29, 2016 on Sol 1237. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity’s Mastcam Right image taken on January 29, 2016 on Sol 1237.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Wind moves

Rover science teams are looking at possible sites for the next use of Curiosity’s drill to collect rock-powder samples of the bedrock in the area.

Landing on Mars in August 2012, Curiosity reached the base of Mount Sharp in 2014 after investigating outcrops closer to its landing site and then trekking to the layered mountain.

On the lower portion of the mountain, the robot is studying how Mars’ ancient environment changed from wet conditions favorable for microbial life to harsher, drier conditions.

Curiosity has been surveying a group of active sand dunes for two months. The rover is studying how the wind moves and sorts sand particles on Mars. The site under study by the robot is part of Bagnold Dune Field, which lines the northwestern flank of Mars’ Mount Sharp.

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