Drilling on Mars!

It’s so super cool

SAM bakes up our sample

Using many a joule

Image taken by Mast Camera (Mastcam) onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 2668 February 7, 2020
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2677 tasks.

The Curiosity science team is currently analyzing our most recent drill powder from “Hutton,” reports Dawn Sumner, Planetary Geologist at University of California Davis.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 2674, February 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The first analysis of its mineralogy with the rover’s Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) was successful, and the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite team decided to proceed with an evolved gas analysis (EGA) analysis.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 2674, February 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“This analysis consists of heating the sample powder in an oven and sending the gases that are released into the mass spectrometer,” Sumner explains. “These gases include things like water vapor, carbon dioxide, molecular oxygen, sulfur compounds, and more. Their concentrations and when they arrive in the mass spectrometer give us lots of interesting information about the composition of the sample.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 2674, February 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Four sols of activity

Recently, the team put together a 4 sol activity plan that covers the long holiday weekend.

“We start by delivering part of our Hutton sample powder to the SAM instrument,” Sumner notes, “which will heat it and analyze it overnight.”

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 2674, February 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

The second sol consists of monitoring the environment and recharging the batteries since heating the sample takes a lot of energy.

“On the third sol, CheMin takes its turn, performing another analysis to better understand the mineralogy of the Hutton sample. In the early morning of the fourth sol, we are characterizing the atmosphere with a suite of images and movies, and we are adding to a very large mosaic of the slopes around Curiosity,” Sumner explains.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 2671, February 10, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Later on the fourth sol, the rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will image “Craigielaw Point,” which is near the top of the slope to the south. ChemCam will shoot its laser at the bedrock at “Troup Head,” which is close to the Hutton drill site, to analyze its chemistry.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 2674, February 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Sumner concludes: “It was great to spend the morning of Valentine’s day with the rover I love the most!”

A cheerful patch of heart-shaped sunlight reminds us of how we love learning about Mars! Curiosity took this image using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, on December 16, 2012, or Sol 129 of her mission.
Most MAHLI images, such as this one, use the sun as an illumination source. However, MAHLI can also use white light LEDs and longwave ultraviolet (UV) LEDs to illuminate targets.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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