Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2805 tasks.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“As much as the science team loves seeing Mars up close, sometimes the view isn’t quite as pretty for the engineering team,” reports Fred Calef, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “As the rover gets closer to hills or cliffs, like “Bloodstone Hill” that we just left, we encounter boulders that have rolled downslope (as they are wont to do), creating visual obstacles in our path.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As Curiosity gets closer to hills or cliffs, like “Bloodstone Hill” that the rover just left, Calef adds, “we encounter boulders that have rolled downslope (as they are wont to do), creating visual obstacles in our path.”

It’s also the case that sometimes Mars makes bouldery landscapes, Calef points out, like when the robot drove up towards Vera Rubin Ridge.

Path ahead

“The path ahead is very similar to that. Rover planners only want to drive where they can see in the navigation images from the Mars surface,” Calef explains. “The area that is visible from where you are is called a viewshed. You can imagine that for a big rock, if you’re standing several meters away, you only see one side of it.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Calef notes that for moving the rover, you don’t want to “drive around a corner” and find yourself staring over a cliff, driving over pointy rocks, or ending up embedded in sand!

“Granted, we can see a lot of martian terrain from satellite imagery, but since there’s no tow service or garages in Gale Crater, we have to be cautious,” Calef says.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Longer drive

All that said, the robot’s next drive will be only about 49 feet (15 meters), so researchers can get a better view for a longer drive in the next planning cycle.

The Curiosity schedule plan for Sol 2803 is to scope out some of the local bedrock at the outskirts of Bloodstone Hill with ChemCam on “Powburn,” “Hunterian,” ‘Earl’s Palace,” and “Otterburn” with accompanying Mastcam images.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B photo acquired on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The rover arm will be deployed to get some Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) chemistry, microscopic views with the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), and Mastcam images on “Capercaillie,” a rock with multiple layers.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Bloodstone Hill” appears just to the right as well as numerous decimeter-scale bounders on the bumpy road ahead up Mt. Sharp. Curiosity Left Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2802 June 24, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Despite not being able to see too far ahead, we’ll still take some Mastcam mosaics of polygonally fractured bedrock and a look back at Bloodstone Hill. Environmental monitoring will include a line-of-sight view and dust devil search movie with Navcam. After a short drive on Sol 2805, we’ll take some views ahead and do a Mastcam clast survey, looking at the pebbles on the ground,” Calef reports. “Here’s to an expansive view of the road ahead!”

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