Curiosity’s Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) is shown in this recent Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1285, March 18, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity’s Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) is shown in this recent Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1285, March 18, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A short in Curiosity’s Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) has curtailed a drive of the Mars rover of roughly 50 feet (15 meters). The problem with the rover’s RTG has happened before on several occasions, reports Lauren Edgar a research geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

“Because the fault is understood, we were able to proceed with the weekend plan from our current location,” Edgar explains.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1285, March 18, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1285, March 18, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Internal short

Back in early 2013, it was reported that Curiosity’s RTG power source experienced an internal short.

“Due to resiliency in design, this short does not affect operation of the power source or the rover. Similar generators on other spacecraft, including NASA’s Cassini at Saturn, have experienced shorts with no loss of capability. Testing of another Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator over many years found no loss of capability in the presence of these types of internal shorts,” explained a JPL rover update on January 25, 2013.

The RTG issue was resolved, and Curiosity continued onward.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1285, March 18, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1285, March 18, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

Local bedrock

The Mars machinery is now in Sol 1287.

The first sol of the weekend plan was set to be devoted to targeted remote sensing.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1285, March 18, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1285, March 18, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“We’ll start with some environmental monitoring observations to assess atmospheric opacity and composition,” Edgar adds. On tap was also acquisition of Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) and Mastcam observations on the targets “Sesriem Canyon,” “Omaheke,” and “Varianto” to assess variations in composition and sedimentary structures in the local bedrock.

Also slated was taking a large Mastcam mosaic of Mt. Sharp, “to take advantage of the low atmospheric opacity right now…which means that the conditions are great for imaging,” Edgar adds.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1285, March 18, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1285, March 18, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Drive rescheduled

A second weekend sol is focused on contact science. The rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) are to investigate two selected targets.

“The first target exposes some nice bedding in the Stimson formation, and the second includes some interesting bright material for comparison,” Edgar says. “Then on the third sol, we’ll again try to drive towards the ridge to the northwest and acquire post-drive imaging for targeting.”

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1285, March 18, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1285, March 18, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Planned 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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