Curiosity’s Location as of Sol 3018 since landing in Gale Crater on Aug. 5, 2012. Distance Driven 15.13 miles (24.35 kilometers).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is just closing out Sol 3020 operations.

Ashley Stroupe, Mission Operations Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, reports the robot is transitioning out of the fractured intermediate unit into a fractured rubbly unit, with rover drivers hoping to minimize wheel wear.

Curiosity Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) image taken on Sol 3018, February 1, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A recent Curiosity touch-and-go was carried out, with the science team busily analyzing the results of the triboelectric experiment that Curiosity did over the weekend – a look for the spark of static electricity on Mars.

Curiosity Mast Camera Right photo acquired on Sol 3018, February 1, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Bedrock composition

A new plan calls for contact science with the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer on a bedrock target named “Lunas,” as part of the regular tracking of bedrock composition and changes.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image taken on Sol 3019, February 2, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo acquired on Sol 3019, February 2, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“The target was a little tough to pick in order to avoid some discolored areas and the veins and try to get a good representation of the bedrock itself,” Stroupe adds.

After the robot’s arm is stowed, the plan is for the rover to take several targeted science observations, including a Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) mosaic of the sulfate unit and a large Mastcam mosaic of the contact with the sulfate unit.

Minimize wheel wear

“We are also doing some environment observations,” Stroupe says, “including a crater rim extinction and a long dust devil movie.”

The rover’s drive in the plan is aimed at parking just before it transitions out of the fractured intermediate unit (and before entering the fractured rubbly unit).

“Once we get back into the rubbly unit,” Stroupe points out, “the driving will get a little bit tougher for the Rover Planners, because there are a lot more small and medium sized rocks that we’ll need to avoid to minimize wheel wear.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3018, February 1, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Short drive

A short drive of about 82 feet (25 meters) of the rover puts the Mars machinery in terrain that is flat and clear of major hazards. “The plan is to park where we can do one last contact science observation of this unit before leaving it behind,” Stroupe adds.

“We are taking advantage of the short distance of the drive and the arm will be unstowed at the parking location. We’ll be taking extra workspace and drive direction imaging at this location as our last look at the unit,” Stroupe reports.

Curiosity Mast Camera Right photo acquired on Sol 3018, February 1, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Environmental observations

On the second sol of the plan, Sol 3021, the robot will carry out more of the standard environmental observations, including another dust devil movie and a suprahorizon movie with navcam in the morning, and a long Mastcam sky survey and solar tau in the afternoon.

 

 

“We’re also throwing in a late-afternoon Navcam optics monitoring activity to help us track the dust on the cameras,” Stroupe concludes.

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