Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1879, November 18, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Now in Sol 1883, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is ready to carry out duties over the upcoming holiday.

Mars rover scientists have put together “two extra-large helpings of science” to get through the Thanksgiving holiday, reports Ryan Anderson, a planetary geologist at the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona.

The first plan covers sols 1882 through 1886 and will mostly involve sitting in one place and not moving. While in this mode, Curiosity will be cooking a sample of “Ogunquit Beach” in the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite via the Evolved Gas Analysis (EGA) oven.

Before that happens, the rover will use its Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) to look at the ground under the rover to see if anything has moved while the Mars machinery has been sitting at this location.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image acquired on Sol 1882, November 21, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech



Looking for frost

Anderson notes that at pre-dawn on sol 1883 the robot’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) is to analyze the rock target “Lebombo” and the soil “Oaktree” to look for evidence of frost.

Then, on sol 1885, remote sensing tasks includes use of Mastcam to collect multispectral observations of the target “Hexriver” and ChemCam will analyze the targets “Klipfonteinheuwel” and “Klippan.”

Curiosity Rear Hazcam Right B image taken on Sol 1882, November 21, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech



Mt. Sharp observations

Anderson says he has advocated for ChemCam to use the Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) to take a closer look at an interesting geologic contact on Mt. Sharp.

Curiosity’s Mastcam is slated to document all of the ChemCam observations, as well as the ChemCam auto-targeted observation from sol 1878. Mastcam will repeat its clast (a rock fragment or grain resulting from the breakdown of larger rocks) survey observation from a few days ago to check for any changes, and then utilize the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) to analyze Klippan and Klipfonteinheuwel overnight.

Before dawn on Sol 1886, Anderson adds that ChemCam will once again analyze Lebombo and Oaktree to look for frost and Navcam and Mastcam will take advantage of the early start to make atmospheric observations.

Second plan

“The second plan for the long weekend covers Sols 1886 through 1888. Mastcam will take pictures of the two frost campaign targets, as well as another atmospheric observation,” Anderson explains.

Then ChemCam and Mastcam will take another look at the Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) target from sol 1878.

“This target was given the name ‘Reivilo’ by two of our French colleagues who were on operations today…both named Olivier, who really like the name for some reason,” Anderson says. After that, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) will take a closer look at Klipfonteinheuwel and Klippan and APXS will do an overnight calibration measurement.”

Dust Removal Tool at work. Curiosity Mastcam Right image acquired on Sol 1881, November 20, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

On Sol 1887 Curiosity will finally move on from the locale where the Mars machinery has been camped for a while, collecting some post-drive images to help with targeting next week.

Lastly, on tap is an untargeted science block.

Distant mesa

Curiosity’s ChemCam will use AEGIS software to automatically pick another target via artificial intelligence. There will be another attempt to observe Mt. Sharp with the RMI, Anderson points out, “this time to check for changes on a distant mesa that I have been monitoring.”

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 1879, November 18, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL


The long weekend will wrap up with Navcam observations to check for clouds and dust devils, and Mastcam observations to measure the dust in the atmosphere.

“We on the Curiosity team are thankful every day that we get to be a part of the exploration of Mars,” Anderson concludes, “and next week we’ll pick up where we left off as we continue our campaign to explore Vera Rubin Ridge!”

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