Archive for January, 2022

London-based Sen has announced that its first satellite able to stream Ultra High Definition videos of Earth is now in orbit.

Sen’s ETV-A1 was launched January 13 aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare. On board this launch were 105 commercial and government spacecraft, including CubeSats, microsats, PocketQubes, and orbital transfer vehicles.

The Sen satellite is equipped with four video cameras, designed to image Earth with different spatial resolutions, from continents and oceans to regions and cities.

Sen’s cameras are capable of streaming recorded and live Ultra High Definition (UHD) video including 8K video from its highest resolution camera which can see down to around 5 feet (1.5 meters) of the ground.

Planned constellation

ETV-A1 is the first in Sen’s planned constellation of video satellites in low Earth orbit.

Credit: Sen

“The successful launch of our first satellite represents a key milestone on our journey to democratize space using video,” said Charles Black, Founder & CEO of Sen in a company statement.

Sen’s mission is to stream real-time videos from space to billions of people, gathering news and information about Earth and space and making it universally accessible and useful.

Range of markets

Sen’s global Earth monitoring will address a range of markets, including: environmental, disaster and emergency response, meteorological, shipping, asset monitoring, news media, future and commodity traders, human and robotic space exploration.

Sen is a private company, funded by over 50 investors and founded in 2007 by Black.

Sen will capture its unique video content using both hosted video cameras and its own constellations of small satellites.

For more information, go to:

https://about.sen.com/

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 3355, January 13, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3356 duties.

Ken Herkenhoff, a planetary geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, reports that a rover “bump” has moved the Mars machinery closer to “The Prow” outcrop. The short drive placed the front wheels very close to the base of the outcrop.

“From this new position, the arm can reach the top of the outcrop,” Herkenhoff adds, so the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) will be placed on a couple of upper outcrop targets named “Angasima” and “Kamuda” on Sol 3355.

Lens imager issue

Unfortunately, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) had an issue reading data from their memory a couple sols ago, so MAHLI imaging is precluded while engineers take a closer look at MAHLI.

“Instead, the Right Mastcam will image the APXS target to allow the chemical measurement to be placed in geologic context,” Herkenhoff points out.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo acquired on Sol 3355, January 13, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will also sample the elemental chemistry of the outcrop at “Cerro la Luna” and use its Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) to acquire a high-resolution 5×2 mosaic of a bedrock exposure called “Paso de las Lagrimas.”

Next drive target

“Mastcam is also planning a stereo mosaic of the outcrop and will acquire mosaics of the next drive target and the Mirador butte toward the south. Navcam and Mastcam will be used to characterize the amount of dust in the atmosphere, which has increased lately, and Navcam will search for dust devils,” Herkenhoff reports.

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 3355, January 13, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Before dawn on Sol 3356, Navcam will search for clouds.

“Later that morning, Navcam will again look at the content of dust in the atmosphere and search for dust devils, then watch for clouds just above the horizon,” Herkenhoff adds. “Then ChemCam will fire its laser at the “Quebrada de Jaspe” target on the right side of the outcrop and acquire an RMI mosaic of another bedrock target dubbed ‘Vale dos Cristais.’”

Heading east

The Right Mastcam will then document both of the ChemCam targets and the APXS targets. Mastcam will then take two stereo mosaics, extending coverage of The Prow, and Navcam will again look for clouds above the horizon.

“The rover will then pack up and drive toward the east, stopping along the way to image interesting outcrops using Navcam and Mastcam. After the drive and the usual post-drive imaging, MARDI will take another twilight image,” Herkenhoff concludes by noting: “Overall, a busy plan.”

Curiosity Mast Camera (Mastcam) Left and Right imagery taken on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity’s location as of Sol 3354. Distance driven 16.76 miles/26.98 kilometers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3355 duties.

Ashley Stroupe, a mission operations engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory reports that Curiosity has been doing a little bit of everything: some contact science, some targeted science, and a little driving.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image acquired on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The robot snagged a view of the small ledge in front of the Mars machinery named “The Prow,” “which shows some amazing layering. We also can see some disturbances in the sand that may be sliding caused by our approach,” Stroupe adds.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A little tricky

Rover planners have been busy despite the plan looking deceptively simple.

The face of The Prow itself is just a bit out of reach, so instead Mars researchers are doing some Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) integrations on a small loose rock target called, “Ilu.”

“Rocks this small can be a little tricky because there is some uncertainty when we place the arm, though we have developed a lot of techniques that help us to get it right,” Stroupe notes.

“Once the APXS is complete and the arm is safely stowed again, we have a long set of targeted science observations with Mastcam, ChemCam [Chemistry and Camera], and Navcam,” Stroupe adds. “We are taking a large mosaic (including extensive stereo) of The Prow as well as imaging Ilu.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image of “The Prow”  taken on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Contact science area

In the plan is using ChemCam Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) to examine “Tramen,” and Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) to image “Contigo,” which are both on The Prow near the rover’s expected next contact science area.

ChemCam is also doing RMI imaging of “Mirador,” which is a butte about 49 feet (15 meters) south. Mars researchers are also continuing to monitor the increasing dust in the atmosphere with Navcam observations of the horizon and a Mastcam solar tau.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Potential parking spots

A scheduled drive is going to move Curiosity closer to The Prow so that contact science on the feature can be done in the next plan.

“While the drive is only a little over a meter, it is also a bit tricky. The rover planners needed to test out different potential parking spots to find the best place from which to place the arm, which took some iteration,” Stroupe reports.

“We will have to get very close to the ledge to be in the best spot to place the arm, but we also need to be careful to not get too close and let the wheels start climbing over the ledge. We are creeping up on it in small steps, each time the rover will check how far away it is in order to choose the next step,” Stroupe concludes.

Credit: Breakthrough Listen/Danielle Futselaar

 

There are key advantages of a radio telescope in lunar orbit, or on the surface of the lunar farside, for conducting the search for extraterrestrial intelligence – to give an ear for technosignatures from other starfolk.

A new research paper on the topic has been led by Berkeley SETI undergraduate intern Eric Michaud. Breakthrough Listen has submitted the white paper on lunar opportunities for SETI to the National Academy of Sciences Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey.

A related paper was also submitted to the NASA Artemis III mission Science Definition Team.

Credit: Breakthrough Listen

Primary advantage

Shielded from the buzz and crackle of radio interference emanating from Earth, a Moon-based telescope would be a powerful new tool in the arsenal of technosignature science. The concept would be able to detect radio frequencies that are inaccessible to Earth-based observatories due to our planet’s ionosphere.

“The primary advantage for SETI is that the body of the Moon provides an excellent shield against terrestrial radio frequency interference,” the paper explains.

Earth satellite interference

Critically, the paper points out, recent trends conspire to make such a mission “not only increasingly feasible, but also increasingly necessary.”

First of all, an ever greater number of satellites being put in Earth orbit, such as the SpaceX StarLink constellation, may contribute tens of thousands of new satellites to the already Radio Frequency Interference (RFI)-dense swarm around the Earth. “This will further complicate Earth-surface-based SETI observation campaigns,” the paper argues.

Starlink satellites.
Credit: SpaceX

 

However, the same economic and technological forces which are enabling this ramping up of satellite launches — the reduction in satellite launch costs and the popularization of smaller satellite buses — also makes a lunar SETI mission more feasible.

Small organizations now routinely place relatively inexpensive satellites into orbit.

Rough blueprint

The newly issued paper flags the HawkEye 360, a small company based out of Virginia. The group has managed to design, build, and launch three satellites for the purpose of detecting and precisely locating radio sources on the surface of the Earth.

Credit: HawkEye 360 is a Radio Frequency (RF) data analytics company

“These missions and others form a rough blueprint for, and signal the increasing feasibility of, sending a small instrument dedicated to SETI to the Moon. Such a mission would enable a detailed survey of the lunar RFI environment, and act as a proof of concept for more sophisticated missions in the future,” the paper suggests.

A lunar SETI mission,” the paper concludes, “would mark the beginning of a new era in the history of SETI, where an increasing human presence in space is accompanied by an expanding ability to discover extraterrestrial life other than our own.”

To read the full paper — Overview – Lunar Opportunities for SETI – go to:

http://seti.berkeley.edu/lunarseti/Lunar_Opportunities_for_SETI.pdf

Read the paper — SETI from the Lunar South Pole — at:

https://ericjmichaud.com/moon-south-pole.pdf

For more information concerning Breakthrough Listen, go to:

https://breakthroughinitiatives.org/initiative/1

Also, go to this informative video that details the initiative at:

https://youtu.be/regFgP-s9Sk

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3352, January 10, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3353 duties.

“On the second sol of the weekend plan, Curiosity took an unexpected break,” reports Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist at Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The robot stopped its arm motion on the way to deploying the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to image the wheels for their regular check up.

“As such, her arm is jutted up in the air,” Minitti adds, “and the rest of the rover stayed there the rest of the weekend. The science and engineering teams very much care that Curiosity is waving her hand in the air, and quickly set about recovering the arm so we could complete wheel imaging and our drive to ‘The Prow.’”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3353, January 11, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Interesting bedrock and structures

Before take two of wheel imaging and the drive, Minitti explains that there was an opportunity to gather more data from the interesting bedrock and structures on this area.

On the plan was use of the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) to shoot “Sucre,” a horizon filled with resistant nodules, to see if the nodules belie a chemistry change.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3353, January 11, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

ChemCam was then slated to acquire Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) mosaics of two different parts of The Prow, “Ptari” and “Panari,” “to give us more insight into the structure we are heading toward,” Minitti reports.

Curiosity’s Mastcam will support ChemCam by imaging Sucre and another target from the weekend, a dark, flat resistant feature that was targeted by ChemCam autonomously.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3353, January 11, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Prominent layering

Mastcam is to keep additionally busy with stereo mosaics of “Indio” and “Mutum,” – “both areas with prominent layering that might help reveal the orientation of the bedrock, and a single image of ‘Maverick Rock,’ which earned its name from the complex mix of bedrock that appears present within,” Minitti adds.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3353, January 11, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Throughout the plan, there’s monitoring of the environment below and above the robot with the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) experiment passive and active, regular Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) measurements, and use of the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), a Mastcam image to keep tabs on the amount of dust in the atmosphere, and Navcam images to look for dust devils and clouds.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3353, January 11, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We expect that when we return for planning,” Minitti concludes, “we will have all these science goodies in the bag, as well as new wheel images and a new parking spot by The Prow. Stay tuned!”

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3353, January 11, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A new report from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) flags a number of issues regarding the space agency’s astronaut corps.

The processes NASA uses to size, train, and assign astronauts to specific missions are primarily calibrated toward meeting the current needs of the International Space Station.

“However, the astronaut corps is projected to fall below its targeted size or minimum manifest requirement in fiscal year (FY) 2022 and FY 2023 due to attrition and additional space flight manifest needs,” the OIG report notes.

More concerning, the report adds, the Astronaut Office calculated that the corps size would exactly equal the number of flight manifest seats NASA will need in FY 2022. “As a result, the Agency may not have a sufficient number of additional astronauts available for unanticipated attrition and crew reassignments or ground roles such as engaging in program development.”

In light of the expanding space flight opportunities anticipated for the Artemis missions, “the corps might be at risk of being misaligned in the future, resulting in disruptive crew reorganizations or mission delays.

A number of recommendations are provided in the Final Report – IG-22-007.

To read the full report, NASA’s Management of Its Astronaut Corps, go to:

https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/IG-22-007.pdf

X-37B Air Force space plane.
Credit: Boeing/Inside Outer Space Screengrab

The U.S. Air Force’s robotic space drone, the X-37B, has flown more than 600 days circuiting the Earth.

This craft is labeled Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-6), also called USSF-7 for the U.S. Space Force, and was launched on May 17, 2020 by an Atlas-V 501 booster.

As for the vehicle’s primary agenda that remains classified, although some of its onboard experiments were identified pre-launch.

Air Force X-37B space plane.
Credit: Boeing

Known payloads

One experiment onboard the space plane is from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), an investigation into transforming solar power into radio frequency microwave energy. The experiment itself is called the Photovoltaic Radio-frequency Antenna Module, PRAM for short.

In addition, the X-37B also deployed the FalconSat-8, a small satellite developed by the U.S. Air Force Academy and sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has pioneered “sandwich” modules that are used in space solar power experiments.
Credit: NRL/Jamie Hartman

Also onboard are two NASA experiments, one to study the effects of the space environment on a materials sample plate and a payload of seeds.

OTV-6 is the first to use a service module to host experiments. The service module is an attachment to the aft of the vehicle that allows additional experimental payload capability to be carried to orbit.

Track record

There’s no official word on when the military space plane mission will return to Earth, but the craft might be headed for a record-setting duration in orbit, eclipsing 780 days in space.

X-37B breaks record, lands after 780 days in orbit
The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Mission 5 successfully landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility Oct. 27, 2019.
Credit: U.S. Air Force

Originally designed for missions of 270 days, the X-37B has set endurance records during each of its five previous flights.

Earlier flights in the X-37B program are:

OTV-1: launched on April 22, 2010 and landed on December 3, 2010, chalking up over 224 days on orbit.

OTV-2: launched on March 5, 2011 and landed on June 16, 2012, spending over 468 days on orbit.

OTV-3: lofted on December 11, 2012 and landed on October 17, 2014, spending over 674 days on-orbit.

OTV-4: launched on May 20, 2015 and landed on May 7, 2015, spending nearly 718 days on-orbit.

OTV-5: placed into orbit on September 7, 2017 and landed on October 27, 2019, spending nearly 780 days on-orbit.

OTV-1, OTV-2, and OTV-3 missions landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, while the OTV-4 and OTV-5 missions landed at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

The unpiloted mini-shuttle has a height of 9.6 feet (2.9 m), a length of 29.3 feet (8.9 m), a wingspan of 14 feet, 11 inches (4.5 meters) and weighs roughly 11,000 pounds (4,990 kg). There are two vehicles that constitute the X-37B program, designed and built by Boeing.

Reusable technologies

According to a Boeing fact sheet, “the X-37B is one of the world’s newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft, designed to operate in low-Earth orbit, 150 to 500 miles above the Earth. The vehicle is the first since the Space Shuttle with the ability to return experiments to Earth for further inspection and analysis. This United States Air Force unmanned space vehicle explores reusable vehicle technologies that support long-term space objectives.”

According to Boeing, the autonomous vehicle features many elements that mark a first use in space, including:

  • Avionics designed to automate all de-orbit and landing functions.
  • Flight controls and brakes using all electro-mechanical actuation; no hydraulics on board.
  • Built using a lighter composite structure, rather than traditional aluminum.
  • New generation of high-temperature wing leading-edge tiles and toughened uni-piece fibrous refractory oxidation-resistant ceramic (TUFROC) tiles.
  • Advanced conformal reusable insulation (CRI) blankets.
  • Toughened uni-piece fibrous insulation (TUFI) impregnated silica tiles.

“The X-37B has a lifting body-style and landing profile that is similar to the Space Shuttle, but the vehicle is one-fourth the size. The X-37B design combines the best of aircraft and spacecraft into an affordable system that is easy to operate and maintain,” states Boeing.

Space test platform

The X-37B program is flown under the wing of a U.S. Space Force unit called Delta 9, established and activated July 24, 2020.

Credit: U.S. Air Force/Boeing

“Delta 9 Detachment 1 oversees operations of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, an experimental program designed to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Space Force,” according to a fact sheet issued by Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.

Credit: U.S. Air Force/Boeing

“The mission of Delta 9 is to prepare, present, and project assigned and attached forces for the purpose of conducting protect and defend operations and providing national decision authorities with response options to deter and, when necessary, defeat orbital threats,” the fact sheet explains. “Additionally, Delta 9 supports Space Domain Awareness by conducting space-based battlespace characterization operations and also conducts on-orbit experimentation and technology demonstrations for the U.S. Space Force.”

 

 

 

 

Go to this new video of OTV-6 flying overhead on January 11, 2022 by satellite tracker, Kevin Fetter, at:

https://youtu.be/pwm5tuKi1cw

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3351 tasks.

Recent imagery shows the robot’s surroundings:

Curiosity Mast Camera Right imagery taken on Sol 3350, January 8, 2022
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3349, January 7, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3349, January 7, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3349, January 7, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3349, January 7, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3349, January 7, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Landing leg of Chang’e-5 lander.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

 

China’s Chang’e-5 lunar lander has provided the first on-location detection of water on the Moon.

The finding was published in Science Advances on January 7, written by a joint research team led by Lin Yangting and Lin Honglei from the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IGGCAS).

Data acquired by the Chang’e-5 observed water signals in reflectance spectral data from the lunar surface.

China’s Chang’e-5 robotic sample return mission.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

Spectral reflectance

China’s Chang’e-5 spacecraft landed in the Northern Oceanus Procellarum basin on the Moon on December 1, 2020 and successfully returned to Earth 1.731-kilograms of lunar collectibles on December 17, 2020.

The spacecraft landed on one of the youngest mare basalts, located at a mid-high latitude on the Moon.

Chang’e-5 descent stage seen just before sunset on Februray 7, 2021.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

 

Before sampling and returning the lunar specimens to Earth, the lunar mineralogical spectrometer onboard the lunar lander performed spectral reflectance measurements of the regolith and of a rock, thereby providing the extraordinary opportunity to detect lunar surface water.

Parts per million (ppm)

A quantitative spectral analysis indicates that the lunar soil at the landing site contains less than 120 ppm of water – mostly attributed to solar wind implantation. This is consistent with the preliminary analysis of the returned Chang’e-5 samples.

Context images and water content at the Chang’e-5 landing site
Credit: Lin Honglei

In contrast, however a light and vesicular rock — a light-colored and surface-pitted rock (named as CE5-Rock) — that was also analyzed revealed an estimated roughly 180 ppm of water, thus suggesting an additional water source from the lunar interior.

According to the research, “the results of compositional and orbital remote sensing analyses show that the rock may have been excavated from an older basaltic unit and ejected to the landing site of Chang’e-5. Therefore, the lower water content of the soil, as compared to the higher water content of the rock fragment, suggests that degassing of the mantle reservoir beneath the Chang’e-5 landing site took place.”

Chang’e-5 return capsule holding lunar specimens.
Credit: National Astronomical Observatories, CAS

 

 

Researchers from the National Space Science Center of CAS, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, the Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics of CAS and Nanjing University were also involved in the study.

 

 

 

To view the research paper – “In situ detection of water on the Moon by the Chang’E-5 lander” – go to:

https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abl9174

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3348, January 6, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3349 duties.

Lucy Thompson, a planetary geologist at University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, reports another successful drive on Mars by the robot.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera RMI taken on Sol 3349, January 7, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

The drive resulted in a dusty bedrock workspace with nodules and small raised ridges in front of the rover, Thompson adds. “Curiosity also has a view towards larger scale, dark, resistant ridges that we have noticed within the more subdued and lighter colored, more typical bedrock in this area.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image acquired on Sol 3347, January 5, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image acquired on Sol 3347, January 5, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Small, raised ridges

Thompson notes that the science team decided to investigate the chemistry and texture of one of the small, raised ridges in the workspace (“El Fosso”) with the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI).

Collection of Mast Camera Right and Left imagery taken on Sol 3347, January 5, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“Is the ridge there because of the presence of a harder, more resistant mineral that might have formed as fluid flowed through the rock? Determining the chemistry of the feature could help to figure out why the ridge is there,” Thompson explains.  

To complement this observation, the bedrock target “Kamarkawarai” will be analyzed with the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) and imaged with the rover’s Mastcam.

Mast Camera Right photo taken on Sol 3347, January 5, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Movement of sand

Looking further afield, Curiosity is slated to image one of the larger scale, dark, resistant ridges with a ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) mosaic.

A planned drive is expected to take Curiosity closer to one of these ridges, which Mars researchers hope to investigate in future plans.

Mastcam is scheduled to document an area that may have been the site of recent movement of sand around a block (“The Pit”), as well as an area of a butte that may contain cross bedding (“Maringma”).

Curiosity Mast Camera Right image acquired on Sol 3347, January 5, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Increase in dust

“Our plan was also full of atmospheric and environmental observations, particularly as we are expecting an increase in dust within the atmosphere as a regional storm passes by. We planned Mastcam basic tau, crater rim extinction and sky survey observations as well as a Navcam line of sight observation and suprahorizon movie,” Thompson reports.

Curiosity Mast Camera Right image acquired on Sol 3347, January 5, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

After the rover’s drive, the plan calls for acquiring a DAN active measurement and a MARDI observation to document the terrain beneath the rover. Standard Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN), Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) and Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) activities round out the plan.

 

“Today was one of those planning days when everything went smoothly. It is not always easy to place the APXS and MAHLI instruments (situated on the end of the robotic arm) on the rocks that we want to investigate,” Thompson points out. “We have to ensure the safety of our instruments and the rover,” and it was relatively easy to place APXS and MAHLI on a target of interest.