Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3366, January 24, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3367 duties.

The rover has moved closer to one of the interesting, more resistant ledges that are exposed in the area (“The Prow”), as Curiosity continues her climb up Mount Sharp, reports Lucy Thompson, a planetary geologist at the University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo taken on Sol 3365, January 23, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“These resistant ledges have caught our attention because they reveal distinct textures. Being able to get close-up, high resolution imaging accompanied by compositional data, will help the science team better understand how they were formed,” Thompson adds.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo taken on Sol 3365, January 23, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

On/off the rocks

However, Curiosity ended up perched on a couple of rocks and at a tilt, such that researchers were not able to safely deploy the arm and use either its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) or Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS).

 

“This meant that the rover engineers had to figure out how to move Curiosity off the rocks, but keep the areas of interest within reach of the arm instruments,” Thompson explains.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo taken on Sol 3365, January 23, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Without the use of the arm in a recently scripted plan, the science team set about planning how to utilize the remaining instruments to continue characterizing this important area.

Finer grained

On tap was use of the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) to analyze a small area within the resistant ledge that appears to be finer grained (“La Ventana”), to see if it has the same composition as the surrounding, sand-size grains.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo taken on Sol 3365, January 23, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A Mastcam mosaic was also to acquire imagery of the La Ventana target and surrounding area.

Two other areas on the resistant ledge (“Caramambatai” and “Potaru”) will be imaged with the ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager (RMI), “providing even more sedimentological and textural information. Mastcam will also image an area of nearby cliffs (“East Cliffs”) to look at shed blocks,” Thompson says.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3366, January 24, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

New workspace

The environmental scientists planned several observations to continue monitoring changes in the atmospheric conditions. These included: Mastcam basic tau and stereo sky column observations, and Navcam 360 sky survey, large dust devil survey and line of sight observations.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3366, January 24, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“After our hopefully successful bump, we will execute a ChemCam AEGIS analysis to autonomously measure the chemistry of a rock target in the new workspace,” Thompson notes. AEGIS stands for Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science) – a software suite that permits the rover to autonomously detect and prioritize targets.

Curiosity Mars Descent Imager photo taken on Sol 3365, January 23, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Also planned, the terrain beneath the rover wheels will be imaged with the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI). Standard Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) and Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) activities round out this plan.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3366, January 24, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

As the APXS strategic planner this week, Thompson is excited “to hopefully be able to place the APXS on this interesting outcrop in tomorrow’s plan and see what textures and information can be teased out with MAHLI close up imaging.”

Sand avalanches

As noted in a previous posting, it looks like the robot disturbed the exploration area around The Prowl. 

Explains Lauren Edgar, a planetary geologist at the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona:

“Yes, I think it’s likely that these sand avalanches are the result of the rover disturbing and destabilizing the slope. We actually drove past this area on a previous sol and then returned on 3365, so I’d have to check to see if it was disturbed on the previous drive or this more recent one,” Edgar told Inside Outer Space. “We’ve commonly seen these dry granular flows in areas that the rover has disturbed. I guess the insights are that it’s loose sand, not cemented, and on a slope steep enough to allow for avalanching.”

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