Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1555, December 21, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Now in Sol 1557, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is prepped for the holidays.

“But that doesn’t mean that Curiosity will be resting,” reports Lauren Edgar, a research geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Edgar notes that a group of science team members and operations staff assembled an eight-sol plan that will execute over December 22-30.

That plan is focused on environmental monitoring and change detection.

Fracture patterns

Yesterday’s tactical planning was aimed at creating a 3-sol plan that will take place over New Year’s, from December 31- January 2.

“When we return to normal operations on January 3, we’ll dive right back in to a campaign investigating some interesting fracture patterns at “Old Soaker.”

“Old Soaker” image taken by Curiosity’s Mastcam Left on Sol 1553, December 18, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A recently implemented three-sol plan started with Mastcam multispectral observations of the targets “Old Soaker” and “Schooner Head” to assess their red and gray color variations.

This was to be followed by a Navcam observation to search for dust devils.

Variations in chemistry

The robot’s Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) was then to target “Moore Harbor” and “Northeast Harbor” to look for variations in chemistry.

Also on tap, use of Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to investigate the grain size and sedimentary structures at “Bar Island,” Thompson Island,” and “Mill Field,” and overnight the plan called for Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) study of “Mill Field” and “Thompson Island.”

On the agenda for the second sol, movement of the APXS to “Bar Island” was scheduled for an overnight integration, along with a Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite electrical baseline test.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1555, December 21, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“On the third sol we’ll retract the arm to enable additional remote sensing of the workspace, including ChemCam on “Goose Cove,” “Deep Cove,” and “Dix Point,” a small Mastcam mosaic, and some environmental monitoring observations,” Edgar reports.

Quite the year

“It should be a busy week for Curiosity, and I’m looking forward to seeing all of the exciting data that she’ll collect while the team is enjoying a break,” Edgar adds. “It’s been quite the year for our rover.”

Edgar notes that Curiosity has drilled six holes, performed two scoops, driven 1.9 miles (three kilometers), and climbed 85 vertical meters – some 279 feet.

“I can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring,” Edgar concludes.

As always, actual implementation of planned rover activities is subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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