Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2775, May 27, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2775 tasks.

Curiosity is finishing up at “Glasgow,” having spent almost exactly one month here,” reports Roger Wiens, a geochemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

A decision will be made shortly, Wiens adds, whether to do another drill hole nearby, or possibly back at “Glen Etive,” or forego another drill operation.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image acquired on Sol 2775, May 27, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The drill material would be used for a wet chemistry experiment by the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite before Curiosity leaves the clay-bearing unit.

“Once all the drilling is finished, Curiosity is scheduled to hit the road (in this case only figuratively, since no roads exist on Mars) toward the sulfate unit,” Wiens explains.

Dust storm prospects

Meanwhile, it’s that time of the Mars year (southern spring) when Mars researchers expect more dust storm activity.

Image taken by Mast Camera onboard Curiosity on Sol 2772. This horizon view shows decreased visibility inside the crater due to increased dust levels.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

“The last Mars global dust storm started almost exactly two Earth years ago, and knocked out the plucky Opportunity rover. The reduction of sunlight during that dust storm, which grew to become global, was too much for that solar-powered rover. Fortunately, Curiosity had no issues, thanks to its nuclear power pack,” Wiens says.

Even so, global storms – which only occur in about one in three Mars years – are fascinating events to study, as scientists still don’t fully understand how they begin or how they grow to become global.

“So the team has been watching for signs of another global storm by making more frequent measurements of ‘tau’ (the opacity of the dust column above the rover) and other indicators of local dust activity, and also by checking the shape of the daily pressure cycle, which is very sensitive to the planet-wide dust distribution,” Wiens adds.

Dump pile on Mars. Curiosity Mast Camera Right image taken on Sol 2773, May 25, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Over last weekend, tau rose slightly, but this sort of variability is typical of the past few months. “It’s still within normal seasonal values and does not indicate a major dust storm is beginning,” Wiens notes.

Last activities at Glasgow

“Never daunted by a little dust, Curiosity is busy packing in the last activities at ‘Glasgow.’ We are planning three sols of activity, and every single instrument gets in on the act,” Wiens reports.

Curiosity Mast Camera Right photo taken on Sol 2774, May 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS



The robot’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) will do an evening analysis of the dump pile, and an overnight observation of the drill tailings, with follow-up Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) images.

Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and Mastcam will do observations of “Hiort” and “Fishnish.” ChemCam will take a Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) mosaic of “Ptarmigan,” which is another view of the top of “Tower Butte.”

Mastcam will take a Sun tau measurement, and will take a multispectral image of the “Glasgow” dump pile. It will also image “Salmons Burn,” a possible meteorite, Wiens reports.

Curiosity’s Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) will take an image of the ground below the rover, and Navcam will take dust-devil movies.

Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) and SAM both have activities supporting their experiments.

The rovers Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) and the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) will also take data.

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