Curiosity Front Hazcam Left A photo taken on Sol 2333,February 28, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now wrapping up Sol 2334 duties.

Curiosity is back in action at Midland Valley, reports Melissa Rice, a planetary geologist at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.

Image of the “Midland Valley” outcrop taken by Curiosity Mastcam Left. Image taken on Sol 2320, February 15, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The robot has returned to science after a two week hiatus because of a technical issue.

Curiosity’s most recent science plan included a drive towards a blocky outcrop called “Midland Valley.” The drive was a success, bringing the rover right on top of a targeted chunk of rock.

Safe mode

“But before we could reach out and touch it, Curiosity went into safe mode,” Rice adds. “While the engineers worked to return Curiosity to nominal operations, the science team stood down from planning, eagerly awaiting our chance to get a closer look at Midland Valley.”

Curiosity Navcam Left A photo acquired on Sol 2320, February 15, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A new plan includes a closer look at the rock.

With Mastcam, Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam), the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) scientists are set to investigate two spots on the outcrop: “Alloa” and “Auchterarder.”

Look ahead

Curiosity Navcam Left A photo acquired on Sol 2320, February 15, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mastcam will also survey its surroundings with mosaics of wind-blown sand features (“Mormond Hill,” “Motherwell” and “Mount Keen”), as well as look back at a previous workspace (towards the previously-explored targets “Curlew” and “Gannet”).

The rover will then perform a look ahead towards a potential future drive destination (at an area with blocky outcrop called “Milltimber”), and a look up to the sky at the dust in the atmosphere, Rice explains. In addition, ChemCam will use LIBS (the laser) to investigate another rock target called “Crathes.”

“The engineering team is working hard to understand the issue that occurred on sol 2320, and upcoming plans will be dedicated to diagnostic activities,” Rice concludes, “and in the meantime, the new observations from Midland Valley will keep us scientists busy!”

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