Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Left B Camera image taken Sol 3190, July 27, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale crater is now performing Sol 3191 tasks.

Reports Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist at Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland: “Our weekend drive completed successfully, landing us north of a roughly 15 meter [49 feet) tall butte that we had imaged the east side of over the weekend. The new parking position gave us a new angle on the butte. Seeing structures from multiple angles helps geologists unravel the story of their formation by revealing their layers in three dimensions.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Right images acquired on Sol 3188, July 25, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Butte imagery

A newly scripted plan offered a challenge; the large Mastcam mosaic scientists wanted to acquire of the butte was best taken early in the day, before the butte began to cover itself in its own shadow, and this window of time overlapped the best time to acquire Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) data before a drive.

“Rather than having to pit APXS against Mastcam, we were allowed to try something relatively unusual,” Minitti adds. Typically, when researchers analyze a target with APXS before a drive, they acquire Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) images of the same target immediately after APXS is done.

“Today, we broke up APXS and MAHLI, putting the desired Mastcam imaging and other remote science observations after APXS. MAHLI was then scheduled after the remote observations, but before the drive,” Minitti points out. “This allowed all the observations to occur at times that would benefit them – wins all around!”

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Left B Camera image taken Sol 3190, July 27, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Bedrock chemistry

APXS and MAHLI were to analyze a patch of relatively smooth bedrock, “Fressignas,” to systematically record bedrock chemistry as the rover climbs up Mount Sharp.

“In addition to the large butte mosaic, Mastcam acquired a small mosaic of a bedrock slab right of the rover, dubbed “Creysse,” which exhibited a combination of lineations and resistant features that added to the variety of textures we have seen over the last several weeks,” Minitti notes.

Resistant nodules

The robot’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) acquired a small Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) mosaic of yet another wonderful structure, “Mescoules,” a delicate arch of rock that appeared to be made of a concentration of the resistant nodules so common in the local bedrock.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 3190, July 27, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

“ChemCam will analyze the chemistry of a linear horizon of resistant nodules at the target “Loubejac” to continue our investigation of what makes these nodules stand out from the bedrock that hosts them,” Minitti explains.

After a drive that we hope will be extended in distance by Curiosity’s autonomous navigation capabilities, ChemCam will acquire chemistry from an autonomously-selected target, and scientists will turn their attention to the atmosphere.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3190, July 27, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Pulse of Gale crater

“APXS will acquire a measurement of argon in the Mars atmosphere, Navcam and Mastcam will measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, and Navcam will shoot a movie in search of dust devils,” Minitti adds.

These dedicated atmospheric observations take place over a background of regular Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) and Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) measurements that keep their finger on the pulse of the Gale crater environment,” Minitti concludes.

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