Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B image taken on Sol 1680, April 28, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


The Curiosity Mars rover continues its exploration trek, wheeling past the 10 mile mark since landing in August 2012.

Now in Sol 1681, the robot accomplished a drive of almost 95 feet (29 meters). The rover parked at a site suitable for a busy plan full of contact science on the Murray formation, reports Michael Battalio, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A&M University.


The rover focused mainly on characterizing nearby flagstone — “Duck Brook Bridge” — like the typical Murray formation that was tan in color, and “Cliffside Bridge” and “Waterfall Bridge” that were more coarse-grained and gray, Battalio adds.

Curiosity’s Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam ) is on tap to observe all of those targets, and its Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) is to measure both Duck Brook Bridge and Waterfall Bridge, with a long integration on Duck Brook Bridge.

Mastcam observations by the robot are slated to support that targeted science in addition to obtaining mosaics of fine-scale laminations on the “Stanley Brook Bridge” contact and alternating layering on “Chasm Brook Bridge.”

Curiosity Mastcam Right image acquired on Sol 1680, April 28, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Wheel inspection

In the final targeted science block on Sol 1682, ChemCam will observe “Amphitheater Bridge” and nodule-rich “Cobblestone Bridge.”

A major component of the plan is the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) full-wheel imaging that is periodically done to ascertain the state of the rover wheels.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo acquired on Sol 1680, April 28, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

This wheel inspection is being done slightly earlier than usual in preparation for traction control driving. Finally, after a drive, ChemCam will perform an Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science System (AEGIS). That software provides automated targeting for remote sensing instruments on the Marsauto-software activity, and the usual post-drive imaging will be performed.

Search for clouds

Battalio notes that there’s a busy plan for a morning imaging suite in Sol 1683.

In the suite, Navcam will search for clouds looking both directly above (zenith movie) and across the horizon (supra-horizon movie). Mastcam will measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere in two directions:  in the direction of the sun and towards the crater rim – called a line-of-sight (LOS) extinction.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1680, April 28, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


“Each of these measurements will be repeated in the afternoon to determine what, if any, diurnal changes occur,” Battalio reports. A 360 degree dust devil search looking towards Mt. Sharp will be captured on Sol 1681.

Finally, a Navcam LOS extinction measurement will be taken for comparison with Mastcam. Normal Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) and Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) measurements as well as several Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) passive measurements and one DAN active are in the plan.

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