Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 3362, January 20, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3363 duties.

It is a “sedimentologist’s delight,” reports Lauren Edgar, a planetary geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 3362, January 20, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 3362, January 20, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

After a few sols of challenges that prevented researchers from getting close-up Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) imaging of a dark outcrop in front of the robot, scientists were finally able to plan the contact science that they were hoping for, Edgar explains.

Kick that rock

Recently, there was a small rock under the right rear rover wheel, so controllers had to kick that rock to the curb to get into a stable position for using the rover arm.

A downlink of data confirmed that Curiosity had cleared the rock and scientists “are good to go with a fantastic set of contact science activities,” Edgar adds. “As a sedimentologist, I am drooling over some of these beautiful structures throughout this area.”

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 3362, January 20, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Sedimentary structures

A slated two-sol plan (Sols 3362-3363) is focused on contact science on the first sol and a drive on the second sol.

“The plan starts with several Mastcam mosaics to document sedimentary structures and their spatial relationships, as well as the processes responsible for carving this landscape,” Edgar points out.

On the schedule is obtaining a Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy observation on “Kako” to investigate the chemistry of nearby nodular bedrock, followed by a long-distance Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) mosaic to investigate the stratigraphy exposed in the “Mirador” butte.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3361, January 19, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“Dog’s eye” mosaic

“After that, we’ll put the arm to work,” Edgar notes. “We’ll acquire a MAHLI ‘dog’s eye’ mosaic of the target ‘Caroni’ in which the camera will get an edge-on perspective of the exposed laminae, and a set of images that coincide with the [Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer] (APXS) targets ‘Coati’ and ‘Morok.’”

“All of these contact science targets are intended to understand the grain size, sedimentary structures, and composition of the dark outcrop in front of us,” Edgar explains.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3361, January 19, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Dust and dust devils

Previously, Curiosity has acquired remote sensing observations of this outcrop, and Mars researchers are excited to get new, detailed information from MAHLI and APXS.

“After the evening APXS integrations, the rover will go to sleep, and wake up the next morning for more science,” Edgar reports.

Also on tap, a suite of observations to characterize atmospheric dust and search for dust devils.

“Then Curiosity will drive back along this dark outcrop to another interesting location to setup for more contact science in the weekend plan,” Edgar concludes. “Looking forward to a great set of data from this location!”

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