The Sol 3247 drive went as planned, crushing and breaking nodules as shown above and right of center in this Navcam image.
Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3247, September 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3248 duties.

A Sol 3247 drive of the robot went as planned, crushing and breaking nodules as part of its duties, reports Ken Herkenhoff, a planetary geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3247, September 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Fresh surfaces

“The fresh surfaces exposed by the rover wheels are high-priority contact science targets,” Herkenhoff adds, “but because solar conjunction is approaching, the arm will not be used in this 3-sol weekend plan [Sols 3248-3250] to ensure that it is in a safe configuration before we stand down from tactical operations while Mars goes behind the Sun as seen from Earth.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3247, September 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Even though Mars will not pass directly behind the Sun, radio communications between Mars and Earth will be unreliable due to interference from the Sun’s corona, Herkenhoff points out. “However, remote sensing observations can be planned for this weekend, so the rover will be busy!”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3247, September 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Disturbed nodules

The Sol 3248 plan starts with a Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) observation of “Wolf Stone” to sample the chemical composition of a nodule that appears to have been scratched by the rover wheel.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 3247, September 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

ChemCam and Mastcam will also measure the spectral reflectance of a cluster of disturbed nodules called “Helmsdale Boulder Beds” that is likely to be the target of contact science observations after solar conjunction, Herkenhoff adds.

Curiosity’s Mastcam will then acquire stereo images of three dark sandy targets named “Sandness Coast” that will be imaged again after solar conjunction to look for changes due to winds.

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo taken on Sol 3247, September 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Clouds and dust

“Mastcam and Navcam will observe the sun and sky early and late in the afternoon, then early the next morning (Sol 3249) to look for clouds and measure changes in the amount of dust in the atmosphere,” Herkenhoff notes.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3247, September 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

ChemCam’s Remote Micro Imager (RMI) telescope and Mastcam will also acquire mosaics of the cliff toward the west when it will be nicely illuminated early in the morning.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3247, September 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Later that morning, Navcam will search for dust devils and ChemCam will fire its laser at ‘Clashach,’ another nodule that appears to have been scratched by the wheels,” Herkenhoff points out. “Then ChemCam will measure the composition of the atmosphere and Mastcam will acquire a 7×2 stereo mosaic of the nearby nodular bedrock.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3247, September 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity’s Location as of Sol 3247. Distance driven to date: 16.39 miles/26.38 kilometers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Rover deck

Overnight, the rover’s Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) will analyze the cell that contained the most recent drill sample to confirm that the cell is now empty.

On Sol 3250, Curiosity’s Navcam will search for dust devils and image the rover deck to enable comparison with images taken after conjunction, to look for changes in the distribution of sand and dust on top of the rover.

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