Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3348, January 6, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3349 duties.

Lucy Thompson, a planetary geologist at University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, reports another successful drive on Mars by the robot.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera RMI taken on Sol 3349, January 7, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

The drive resulted in a dusty bedrock workspace with nodules and small raised ridges in front of the rover, Thompson adds. “Curiosity also has a view towards larger scale, dark, resistant ridges that we have noticed within the more subdued and lighter colored, more typical bedrock in this area.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image acquired on Sol 3347, January 5, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image acquired on Sol 3347, January 5, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Small, raised ridges

Thompson notes that the science team decided to investigate the chemistry and texture of one of the small, raised ridges in the workspace (“El Fosso”) with the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI).

Collection of Mast Camera Right and Left imagery taken on Sol 3347, January 5, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“Is the ridge there because of the presence of a harder, more resistant mineral that might have formed as fluid flowed through the rock? Determining the chemistry of the feature could help to figure out why the ridge is there,” Thompson explains.  

To complement this observation, the bedrock target “Kamarkawarai” will be analyzed with the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) and imaged with the rover’s Mastcam.

Mast Camera Right photo taken on Sol 3347, January 5, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Movement of sand

Looking further afield, Curiosity is slated to image one of the larger scale, dark, resistant ridges with a ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) mosaic.

A planned drive is expected to take Curiosity closer to one of these ridges, which Mars researchers hope to investigate in future plans.

Mastcam is scheduled to document an area that may have been the site of recent movement of sand around a block (“The Pit”), as well as an area of a butte that may contain cross bedding (“Maringma”).

Curiosity Mast Camera Right image acquired on Sol 3347, January 5, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Increase in dust

“Our plan was also full of atmospheric and environmental observations, particularly as we are expecting an increase in dust within the atmosphere as a regional storm passes by. We planned Mastcam basic tau, crater rim extinction and sky survey observations as well as a Navcam line of sight observation and suprahorizon movie,” Thompson reports.

Curiosity Mast Camera Right image acquired on Sol 3347, January 5, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

After the rover’s drive, the plan calls for acquiring a DAN active measurement and a MARDI observation to document the terrain beneath the rover. Standard Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN), Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) and Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) activities round out the plan.

 

“Today was one of those planning days when everything went smoothly. It is not always easy to place the APXS and MAHLI instruments (situated on the end of the robotic arm) on the rocks that we want to investigate,” Thompson points out. “We have to ensure the safety of our instruments and the rover,” and it was relatively easy to place APXS and MAHLI on a target of interest.

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