Curiosity Front Right Hazard Avoidance Camera image taken on Sol 2857, August 19, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2858 tasks.

Reports Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist at Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland: “It was just a few short weeks ago that we acquired sample from the “Mary Anning” drill target.”

In those intervening weeks, Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam), the rover’s Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin), the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) “have all thoroughly investigated the resulting sample and drill hole, and found it compelling enough that we are ready to dig into the bedrock in our workspace again,” Minitti adds.

The Mars Hand Lens Imager, called MAHLI, is the rover’s version of the magnifying hand lens that geologists usually carry with them into the field. MAHLI’s close-up images reveal the minerals and textures in rock surfaces.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Other observations

A recent plan is focused on analyzing the “Mary Anning 2” drill target, but Mars researchers had enough time to fit in other observations as well.

“MAHLI will start the fun by imaging the second Mary Anning target before the Dust Removal Tool (DRT) brushes it to hopefully better resolve the laser spots from when ChemCam shot the target on Sol 2831.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 2857, August 19, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Newly-cleaned place

“After DRT brushing, MAHLI will image the target again to give APXS a look at the newly-cleaned place it will analyze,” Minitti says. “Next, the rover engineers will push the drill bit into the target to see how the rock responds ahead of drilling.”

MAHLI is slated to image the target yet again to see what kind of impression, if any, the drill bit made in the rock.

Next sample

APXS has its chance to acquire data from within the DRT-cleaned area overnight on Sol 2858.

CheMin will also be getting ready for the next Mary Anning sample by running an analysis of the empty cell that is waiting to receive the sample.

“With all this arm activity right in front of the rover, ChemCam selected a target off to rover right called “Falkirk Wheel.” Falkirk Wheel appears to be another collection of dark nodules like the “Ayton” target analyzed by ChemCam, MAHLI, and APXS in previous plans,” Minitti adds.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 2857, August 19, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Disappearance of drill tailings

Comparing and contrasting these targets, Minitti continues, will hopefully help scientists understand more about their origin.

A recent MAHLI image of the first Mary Anning drill hole shows the disappearance of the drill tailings around the hole.

Minitti says that makes it abundantly clear that winds are moving material around.

Kicking up dust devils?

Also on the plan, both the robot’s Mastcam and the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) will acquire images aimed at tracking wind-induced changes.

“Mastcam will image a patch of ripples at the “Skelmorlie” target for comparison to previous images of that area,” Minitti explains. “MARDI will image three times – twice in the early evening and once early in the morning – to figure out when the winds are at their strongest.”

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station is nicknamed REMS, and it contains all the weather instruments needed to provide daily and seasonal reports on meteorological conditions around the rover.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Are the winds kicking up dust devils? Navcam will acquire a movie to look for them.

Meanwhile, Curiosity’s Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) and the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) dot the plan keeping their regular eyes on the state of the environment above and below the rover, Minitti concludes.

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