Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3946, September 12, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3947 duties.

Lauren Edgar, a planetary geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona reports:

“Curiosity is making good progress towards our next potential drill location in a region of alternating light and dark banding,” reports “Before we get there, we’re collecting a lot of great contact science on these blocks of broken up bedrock to document compositional and textural changes.”

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B photo taken on Sol 3946, September 12, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Power, data, time

A recent two-sol plan (Sols 3946-3947) scripted contact science and driving on the first sol, followed by untargeted remote sensing on the second sol.

Edgar notes that planning comes together and fits within the robot’s power, data, and time of day constraints, while accomplishing important science.

The recent plan was to start by using the Dust Removal Tool (DRT) to expose a fresh surface at the bedrock target “Antikythera,” followed by use of the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) to assess its chemistry.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3946, September 12, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Then there’s use of Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and Mastcam multispectral to collect some additional chemistry observations on the same target, Edgar adds.

Edge-on view

“The team also planned several Mastcam mosaics at “Delphi,” “Mycenae,” and “Zagori” to assess the local bedrock and some resistant fins, and to document a nearby ripple field with an edge-on view of the bedform crests,” Edgar reports.

Also on the plan was using the ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) to acquire a long distance mosaic looking back towards Peace Vallis, and take a Mastcam tau observation to assess atmospheric opacity.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3946, September 12, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In the afternoon, MAHLI will image the DRT target “Antikythera,” followed by a rover drive of 85 feet (roughly 26 meters) and imaging to prepare for the next plan. The second sol includes an autonomously selected ChemCam target, and Navcam observations to assess dust in the atmosphere and search for dust devils.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3946, September 12, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Bishop quad

“The planned drive should put us in a new mapping quadrangle, informally known as the Bishop quad,” Edgar points out.

“Our informal naming convention is to divide up the exploration region into square quadrangles (0.025 degrees of latitude or longitude on a side) and each quad is assigned a name of a town with a population less than 100,000 people,” Edgar explains.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo acquired on Sol 3946, Septembert 12, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B Sol 3946, September 12, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

 

As Curiosity investigates targets within a quad, Edgar adds that the Mars study team assign names to targets that correspond to geological formations and features from near that town on Earth.

“Bishop California is located in Owens Valley, and is the starting point for trips into the High Sierra, including some awesome geology,” Edgar concludes. “It feels like a fitting name for the next part of Curiosity’s ascent of Mt. Sharp!”

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