Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image acquired on Sol 3041, February 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 3042 tasks.

Reports Mark Salvatore, a planetary geologist at University of Michigan: “Curiosity presses on to the east within Gale Crater, characterizing compositional variations within the underlying bedrock as we continue to march uphill and encounter sedimentary rocks that record the ancient geologic and environmental conditions within the crater.”

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3041, February 25, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Salvatore adds that, over the past 35 sols, Curiosity has covered more than 1,969 feet (600 meters) of lateral distance as the rover approaches unique compositional transitions observed from orbit.

Regional bedrock

“The science team is continuing to make detailed analyses of the regional bedrock to make sure that we understand these transitions from the ground as well,” Salvatore points out.

A cliff (“Mont Mercou”) is roughly 18 feet tall, Curiosity Mast Camera Right photo taken on Sol 3040, February 23, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A recently scripted plan has the robot conducting a touch-and-go Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) chemistry analysis on the bedrock target “Manzac” located in front of the rover.

“She will also be acquiring high-resolution images of the path ahead to aid with future planning, making a suite of environmental observations, and collecting ChemCam [Chemistry and Camera] passive spectral data on another interesting bedrock unit in front of the rover named “Tranchecouyere.”

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 3041, February 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech



Victim of recent drive

“One additional observation will be acquiring high-resolution color images of the target “Tourtoirac,” located behind the back-right wheel of Curiosity,” Salvatore adds. “This target was a victim to Curiosity’s recent drive, which resulted in this rather large rock tilting onto its side under the pressure of Curiosity’s wheels.”

Target “Tourtoirac” (center right) tilting onto its side under the pressure of Curiosity’s wheels.This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera on Sol 3040.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.




Salvatore explains that Tourtoirac now sticks up at approximately a 45° angle, which will allow scientists to get a good look at whether there are any well-preserved layers or morphologies that are present along the side of the rock.

“It’s a great bonus observation,” Salvatore concludes, “that might not have been possible had Curiosity driven a few inches in a different direction!”

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