Curiosity Navcam Right B photo acquired on Sol 2060. May 23, 2018
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Now in Sol 2067, the Curiosity Mars rover faces “tis the season to be dusty,” explains Claire Newman, an environmental science theme lead from Ashima Research in Pasadena, California.

The previous rover plan included some tests of the sample delivery system, including delivery of a single portion to the closed cover of the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite inlet. “The imaging showed a small amount made it, but not as much as we’d hoped,” Newman explains.

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo acquired on Sol 2064, May 27, 2018
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

So the team decided to postpone the Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) for later, “leaving us even more time for science activities in today’s single sol plan for Sol 2067,” Newman notes.

Seize the opportunity

The environmental theme group seized the opportunity to take a long “dust devil search” movie pointed roughly to the northwest, where the robot has a view back down the slope of Aeolis Mons toward the Bagnold Dunes, and all the way across Gale Crater’s floor to the northwest rim.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image acquired on Sol 2065, May 28, 2018.

“We’ve just moved past southern spring equinox, which means we’re now in the half of the Mars year when global dust storms are observed to begin,” Newman points out. “However, the increased surface heating as we head for the warmest time of year should also produce a peak in convective activity and hence in dust-filled vortices known as dust devils. We’ve already seen a lot this Mars year in our location higher up the slope, so we’re hoping for a bumper crop in spring and summer!”

Meanwhile, the environmental theme group added a long 360° dust devil survey and cloud movie as well as the usual Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) and Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) activities.

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo taken on Sol 2064. May 27, 2018
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Change detection

Newman also reports that, on the geology side, following the robot’s haul of change detection images over the weekend, Mars researchers continued to look for surface changes on the Duluth drill tailings and on target “Noodle Lake” that has loose material sitting on the bedrock.

“The purpose of these experiments is to help us figure out the wind direction and its relative strength at this location, which may help to explain some of the sampling issues,” Newman adds, “that is, if the sample is being blown away as it drops.”

Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) also made measurements on “Sawtooth Bluff,” a gray, thin alteration layer raised above the bedrock surface, repeating measurements made previously on the nearby “Grand Marais” target, and on “Gary,” a raised ridge feature, as well as taking two long-distance Remote micro-imager (RMI) images of the “Red Cliff” target as part of an engineering test.


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