Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Left B Camera image taken on Sol 2661, January 31, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2661 duties.

Curiosity’s recent drive successfully moved uphill and closer to the “Greenheugh” pediment, reports Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist at Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Image captures a geologic six pack, six targets under study by Curiosity.

“The rocks around us were a riot of shapes, colors and textures, making it difficult to limit ourselves to which ones we would look at,” Minitti adds. “The team is trying to understand how (or if) the bedrock chemistry changes as we move closer to the Greenheugh pediment, as the pediment marks a change in rock type from the majority of rocks we have encountered through the clay-bearing “Glen Torridon” unit.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 2661, January 31, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As such, many of the rover targets are dedicated to the bedrock.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 2661, January 31, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Free of veins

The robot’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and its Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) are slated to analyze “Cullivoe” and “Bogmill Pow,” the former after it has been brushed by the Dust Removal Tool (DRT).

“Cullivoe represents the flatter, smoother areas of the bedrock free of veins or other erosion-resistant features while Bogmill Pow is one of the rough, multicolored areas of the bedrock,” Minitti points out.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2660, January 30, 2020 shows results of Dust Removal Tool.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam ) is to analyze a similarly complementary pair of targets.

The goal is for “High Possil” to represent the background bedrock in this area, while “Duncairn” specifically focuses on an erosion-resistant feature that appears to be emerging from its host bedrock.

Spectacular feature

“Veins were a particularly spectacular feature of the workspace, often exhibiting white interiors and thin, gray exteriors,” Minitti explains. The most notable example is the bright, linear feature given the name “Tilicoultry,” with a gray slab broken off and sitting on the sand to the right of the vein, named “Hastigrow.”

“This pair, and the bedrock and sand surrounding them,” Minitti says, “will be imaged using the Mastcam multispectral technique, which ought to help uncover the differences among the bedrock and the parts of the vein.”

Higher elevations call

Curiosity will intersperse observations of the sky among all those of the ground.

Mastcam will acquire early morning images to measure the dust load in the atmosphere, and Navcam will acquire late afternoon movies to look for clouds and dust devils.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 2661, January 31, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) and Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) maintain their steady watch of the weather and radiation environment in Gale, and the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) will seek signals of hydrogen from under the rover both before and after the rover’s drive.

“Yes, as hard as it will be to leave this spot, higher elevations call! We will drive to the highest accessible bedrock exposure just below the pediment in hopes that we can interrogate its chemistry over the weekend,” Minitti concludes. “Surely, more excitement awaits!”

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