Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3179 tasks.

Reports Susanne Schwenzer, a planetary geologist at The Open University; Milton Keynes, U.K., the rover’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) have been looking at the drill fines of the “Pontours” drill hole – the robot’s 32nd drill hole.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo acquired on Sol 3178, July 15, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity is sitting in an “exciting and very interesting looking area,” Schwenzer adds. “Around the drill site, we have spotted many different textures and colors; and as we know from being on Mars for over 3100 sols now, different colors and textures may mean interesting discoveries.”

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo acquired on Sol 3178, July 15, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Colorful features

The decision was made for Curiosity to investigate the more reddish features spotted on a rock close to the rover with its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam), investigating a target called “Belcayre.” There are also darker features on the same rock.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 3178, July 15, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The robot’s Mastcam is targeting “La Bastide” as well, adding multispectral information to the dataset. Mastcam is also targeting “Lempzours,” which is a resistant feature in the distance. “The mosaic will expand an existing mosaic to give us even more information on the many textures in this scene,” Schwenzer concludes.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3177, July 14, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Methane spikes

Meanwhile, an intriguing research paper has been published – “Mars Methane Sources in Northwestern Gale Crater Inferred from Back-Trajectory Modeling” — work led by Yangcheng Luo of the California Institute of Technology.

“During its five years of operation, the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TLS) on board the Curiosity rover has detected six methane spikes above a low background abundance in Gale crater. The methane spikes are likely the consequence of nearby surface emission,” Luo and colleagues write.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3177, July 14, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The paper notes that almost all of the methane in the present-day Earth’s atmosphere can be traced back to biological origins.

“This may invoke a coincidence that we selected a landing site for Curiosity that is located next to an active methane emission site. Another possibility that does not invoke the coincidence is the existence of fast methane removal mechanisms that are unknown to date.”

 

 

 

 

To read the full paper, “Mars Methane Sources in Northwestern Gale Crater Inferred from Back-Trajectory Modeling,” go to:

https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-569847/v1

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