Curiosity image taken by rover's Mastcam Left, Sol 1080 on August 20, 2015 Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity image taken by rover’s Mastcam Left, Sol 1080 on August 20, 2015
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

NASA’s Opportunity and Curiosity Mars rovers are fully engaged in exploration duties on the Red Planet.

Ground controllers operating Curiosity are implementing a weekend of tasks.

“The vehicle is on a local high spot that gives us a spectacular view of the terrain ahead,” explains Ken Herkenhoff of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

But there are few targets in front of the rover at this time suitable for contact science, Herkenhoff adds. Only one target called “Ravalli” is on tap to be investigated using the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS), he notes.

Looking up, looking down

On Sol 1082, the plan calls for the robot’s Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) and Mastcam will observe Ravalli and a brighter rock dubbed “Sawtooth” before Mastcam acquires a 23×6 mosaic of outcrops ahead.

Additionally, the Mastcam and Navcam are slated to look up at the sky at about the same time that the Mars Odyssey orbiter will be passing over. The result will be to compare results of observations from above and the surface, Herkenhoff explains.

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

Opportunity rover uses its Navigation Camera to collect image on Sol 4106. Credit: NASA/JPL

Opportunity rover uses its Navigation Camera to collect image on Sol 4106.
Credit: NASA/JPL

Marathon exploration

Similarly, NASA’s Opportunity rover is surveying Marathon Valley, “beginning a long exploration and measurement campaign to understand the geologic setting of the CRISM-based smectite detections,” said Ray Arvidson, Mars Exploration Rover (MER) deputy principal investigator at Washington University in St. Louis.

Smectite is a type of clay found here on Earth that often forms in non-acidic water.

Opportunity Front Hazcam image taken on Sol 4114 shows instrumented robot arm at work. Credit: NASA/JPL

Opportunity Front Hazcam image taken on Sol 4114 shows instrumented robot arm at work.
Credit: NASA/JPL

The Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) is a visible-infrared spectrometer aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that’s on the lookout for mineralogical indications of past and present water on Mars.

Smectite signature

“Marathon Valley floor is very interesting,” Arvidson says, with numerous intersecting fractures, spatial color variations, and both fine and coarse-grained breccias.

Opportunity Microscopic Imager photo from Sol 4112. Opportunity’s Microscopic Imager image is a first attempt to grind into target Robert Frazer. The rock is irregular and controllers here on Earth carried out a shallow grind and thus only part of the target was actually ground.  Credit: NASA/JPL

Opportunity Microscopic Imager photo from Sol 4112. Opportunity’s Microscopic Imager image is a first attempt to grind into target Robert Frazer. The rock is irregular and controllers here on Earth carried out a shallow grind and thus only part of the target was actually ground.
Credit: NASA/JPL

“It will take a while to sort everything out and understand what is carrying the smectite signature detected in the valley in five separate CRISM observations,” Arvidson told Inside Outer Space.

Leave a Reply

Griffith Observatory Event