Curiosity at Gale crater as of Sol 4139. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 4142 tasks.

Reports Conor Hayes, a graduate student at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the rover is producing stunning photos as it drives up along the side of the upper Gediz Vallis Ridge “and the pile of phenomenal images we have of this area will continue to grow.”

A Navcam image looking back towards the northern rim of Gale Crater. “Now that we’re nearing the peak of the dusty season on Mars, it can sometimes be challenging to see the crater rim through all of the dust in the atmosphere,” reports Conor Hayes, a graduate student at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Curiosity Right Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 4137, March 26, 2024.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In the plan for Sols 4139-4140, Curiosity continued to inspect the bedrock in its workspace, first getting Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) observations of “Rainbow Falls” and then five Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) shots at “Crystal Turret.”

Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo acquired on Sol 4141, March 30, 2024.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Fascination Turret

The robot’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) was scheduled to then turn its eye to Fascination Turret, which it has imaged from other angles in previous plans, taking two long-distance Remote Micro-Imager (RMI)mosaics.

“As an aside, ‘long-distance’ is definitely a relative term here,” Hayes adds. “The part of Fascination Turret we’re imaging is about 25–30 meters away, which feels like nothing compared to the RMI mosaics of the northern rim of Gale that we’ve taken in the past, which is over 30 kilometers away!”

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera on Sol 4141, March 31, 2024.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Drive target

The plan called for post-ChemCam use of Curiosity’s Mastcam to shine with documentation images of Cristal Turret post-LIBS, a mosaic of our eventual drive target “Hinman Col,” as well as context imaging of the upper Gediz Vallis Ridge, Hays reports, to help Mars researchers choose targets in the future and two color images of the areas captured in the RMI mosaics earlier.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera on Sol 4141, March 30, 2024.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“After we’re finished taking a look around us, we’ll turn back to our workspace for one last time, taking MAHLI [Mars Hand Lens Imager] photos of Rainbow Falls and ‘Rancheria Falls,’” Hayes notes, then drive away towards Hinman Col, taking Mastcam images to assist operators build the next few plans for the rover to carry out.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 4141, March 31, 2024.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

 

Power nap

“Overnight, we take a nice long rest to help recharge our batteries before waking up in the early morning to take another Mastcam mosaic of Fascination Turret,” Hayes observes, noting that it’s definitely living up to its name. The mosaic will be taken this time under different illumination conditions than what Curiosity captures in the midsol or afternoon.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera on Sol 4141, March 31, 2024.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“After a quick one hour power nap, we’ll wake up again for some more remote sensing science. As is typical after a drive, we let ChemCam choose its own post-drive target with AEGIS before moving into some environmental science,” Hayes reports.

AEGIS stands for Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science) – a software suite that permits the rover to autonomously detect and prioritize targets.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera on Sol 4141, March 30, 2024.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Dust-focused

“We’re rapidly nearing the peak of the dusty season, so the environmental science team’s observations are very dust-focused,” Hayes adds. “We begin by using Navcam to take some images of the northern crater rim to observe the amount of dust between the rover and the rim.”

There is quite a bit of dust in the air at the moment, Hayes observes. “You really have to squint to just barely make out the crater rim!”

Also in the plan is taking “deck monitoring” imagery to see how the wind and the rover’s motion as it drives affects the sand that has gathered on top of the rover deck since landing.

After that, the recently scripted plan includes surveying the area around us for dust devils and taking a “Suprahorizon Movie.”

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera on Sol 4141, March 30, 2024.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“The Suprahorizon Movie is usually used to look for clouds over Gale,” Hayes reports, “but we’ve adjusted the direction that it points to look over a large sand patch that we drove past about 260 sols ago so that it can pull double-duty to hunt for wind-driven sand lifting or dust devils in addition to clouds.”

Curiosity was slated to sleep the rest of the plan away, briefly waking up several times to send data back to Earth.

The robot will carry out ongoing tasks via the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), and the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) throughout this plan “to monitor the weather and radiation environment and look for hydrated minerals in the subsurface,” Hayes concludes.

 

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