Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image of “Mary Anning” taken on Sol 2834, July 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is just now starting to perform Sol 2836 tasks.

“A little inside joke among rover scientists, going back to previous rover missions, is the refrain ‘well, if we see a dinosaur bone, we’ll stick around,’” reports Fred Calef, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Mary Anning.
Courtesy: Biodiversity Heritage Library

While, sadly, there is (checks notes) zero chance of finding dinosaur bones on Mars, Calef adds, “our search for Martian organics is something we’re here to do!”

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2833, July 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scouring the outcrop

“Following in the footsteps of the renowned paleontologist Mary Anning, we’ve been scouring the outcrop, like she did at the limestone and shale ‘Blue Lias’ cliffs in England, and today will crack the outcrop with our ‘rock hammer’ (drill) and see what mysteries are captured within,” Calef explains.

As “Keeper of the Maps,” Calef also gets to add a dot on the team’s drill targets map, which always makes his day.

Next drill sample

“After a short discussion about the results from our weekend observation on the target ‘Mary Anning,’ the science team concurred that this place is geologically similar to the ‘Glen Etive’ drill location, and would be suitable for our next drilled sample,” Calef reports.


To help characterize the pre-drill surface, the rover is slated to take a full multispectral Mastcam image of the Mary Anning, as well as a Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Z-stack and 5×1 observation.

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo taken on Sol 2834, July 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Two additional targets, “Ayton” and “Carriden,” will be observed with ChemCam and Mastcam to characterize the outcrop.


“We’ll also expand the Mastcam color imaging of the workspace in front of the rover,” Calef notes, “document two Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) targets with Mastcam, and a Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) image of the surface.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Right image taken on Sol 2833, July 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

During recent science planning, Curiosity rover geologist Rebecca Williams said, “We’re drilling on Mars and launching to the red planet this week. It’s all very exciting!”

Curiosity Mast Camera Right image acquired on Sol 2833, July 25, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“I can’t agree more! When the new rover images come down…I hope you find some exciting things in them. And if you see a plesiosaur tail or pterosaur wing-tip, please let us know,” Calef concludes.

Dates of planned rover activities described are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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