Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B photo taken on Sol 3298, November 15, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3299 duties.

The robot is in the midst of the Zechstein drilling campaign, reports Catherine O’Connell-Cooper, a planetary geologist at the University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) team is eagerly waiting for the results of their weekend evolved gas analysis (EGA) analysis on the newly drilled sample.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3297, November 14, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Depending on the results, O’Connell-Cooper adds that scientists might move onto characterizing the dumped sample with the rover’s contact science instruments and Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) in the next plan.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3298, November 15, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Telling of the tailings

“Anticipating the return to contact science within the next few days, Mastcam will take an image of the tailings around the Zechstein drill hole,” O’Connell-Cooper notes.

This change detection image will be used to determine the shape of the tailings, to see if they have been moved around by wind or by the ChemCam Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) measurement of the drill hole wall on sol 3292.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3298, November 15, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and the other contact science teams “are looking forward to getting to work on these samples,” O’Connell-Cooper reports.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 3298, November 15, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Local bedrock

In the meantime, Mars researchers continue to characterize the local bedrock with ChemCam and Mastcam.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3298, November 15, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“ChemCam is using the LIBS instrument to analyze two targets. One (“Aberlemmo”) is on some obviously layered bedrock, the second (”Caledonite”) is on a nearby fragment of bedrock but layering is less prominent. ChemCam will conduct a paired experiment, so that we can potentially determine if the layering has an associated compositional factor,” O’Connell-Cooper explains.

Curiosity’s Mastcam will image these targets and a third layered target (“Balmashanna”) in the same part of the workspace.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3298, November 15, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Underlying rocks

“Finally, the hardworking ChemCam and Mastcam instruments will do some long distance imaging of the overlying Greenheugh pediment,” O’Connell-Cooper says, “looking at the contact between the pediment and underlying rocks.”

O’Connell-Cooper concludes her report noting that the environmental theme group continues their campaign to document environmental conditions in Gale crater, with tau observations (measuring dust in the atmosphere), cloud surveys and dust devil movies, “hoping to catch one in action!”

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