Curiosity Mastcam Left photo acquired on Sol 1907, December 17, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Now in Sol 1909 operations, the NASA Curiosity Mars rover continues its survey of the Vera Rubin Ridge.

Reports Lauren Edgar, a planetary geologist at the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona, there’s been an important decision about where to drive the robot and how that will set up researchers for exciting science over the holidays.

“After much discussion, the team decided to return to some familiar yet intriguing rocks that we explored last week,” Edgar notes. “These rocks show a lot of color variations and alteration features, and we’re curious how they fit in the overall stratigraphy at Vera Rubin Ridge.”

Wet chemistry

The other main event in Curiosity planning is a Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) wet chemistry experiment on the previously collected Ogunquit Beach sample.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B photo taken on Sol 1908, December 18, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“This is a very power hungry activity, so we had to keep our other remote sensing activities in check. The team planned two Mastcam mosaics to document the context of the site we’re driving back to, and to investigate similar color variations in an outcrop to the southeast,” Edgar explains.

Terrain documentation

After a busy night of SAM activities, Curiosity will spend the second sol driving back toward an area named “Lismore.”

Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 1907, December 17, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

During the drive, the rover a number of Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) images to document the terrain beneath the rover, and typical post-drive Navcam and Mastcam mosaics will be taken to prepare for targeting on Wednesday.

In the afternoon, Curiosity will acquire two Navcam movies to monitor the atmosphere and search for clouds.

“I’m looking forward to seeing some familiar rocks,” Edgar concludes, “and preparing for the long holiday plan!”

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