Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) has produced a series of shots to piece together a rover selfie at the Nontron drill site. Images produced on Sol 3070, March 26, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3071 tasks.

Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist at Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland reports: “We anticipate leaving our Nontron drill site in the next few sols, and just as you might snap one last picture of a memorable vacation spot, [the Mars Hand Lens Imager] MAHLI will wrap up the plan with a rover selfie featuring the spectacular ‘Mont Mercou’ in the background. Smile, Curiosity!”

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

New imagery from the rover clearly shows selfie imagery has been produced that will be shaped into a keepsake photo!

Final observations

“With a successful drill campaign at Nontron in the books, the team continued to wrap up drill hole observations and also grab some final observations of the interesting materials that mark this area,” Minitti adds.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


The rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) was slated to acquire a passive spectra of sulfate-bearing buttes that beckon from farther up “Mount Sharp.”

Curiosity’s Mastcam was scheduled to image sand targets “Thenac” and “Thenon” “to look for wind-induced changes, and the target “Creyssac,” a coherent crack in nearby sand to watch how – or if – it changes,” Minitti explains.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Looking for dust devils

The robot’s Mastcam and Navcam were also on tap to both monitor the amount of dust in the atmosphere, and Navcam will acquire a movie looking for dust devils.

Curiosity’s Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) and Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) maintain their steady watch over the Gale crater environment through the plan, Minitti notes.

The Chassenon target is the white-gray-white striped feature at the edge of the bedrock block to the left of the drill hole in this image taken by rover’s Mast Camera on Sol 3056 March 12, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) will image both spots that the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) MAHLI analyzed on the pile of discarded Nontron drill sample in an earlier plan.

Multi-spot analysis

After the Nontron sample, MAHLI will team up with APXS for a multi-spot analysis, or raster, on the “Chassenon” target.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“We most commonly associate rasters with ChemCam, as moving through multiple spots in succession – sometimes in a grid, sometimes in a line – is how ChemCam analyzes a given target. Such rasters take 20-30 minutes, depending on the number of points in the raster,” Minitti reports. “A raster with APXS and MAHLI takes much longer!”

MAHLI and APXS are both at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, “so each MAHLI image and each APXS analysis relies on the arm and turret to gently and accurately place the instruments where the science team wants them to go,” Minitti adds. “Those arm motions are slow and careful, as you would expect if you were operating a 2-meter long arm weighing nearly 100 kilograms!”

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Isolate the chemistry

If researchers only obtained a single APXS analysis over the center of Chassenon, Minitti says, the resulting chemistry would be a mix of that feature – the sand to its left and the bedrock to its right.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Minitti says that by adding two additional analyses – one slightly shifted off the center to get a mix of the feature and the surrounding bedrock, one over only bedrock – scientists can better isolate the chemistry of the feature.

“That is done by combining the chemistry from the APXS analyses with the proportions of materials in each APXS field of view, as determined with the MAHLI images that accompany each APXS analysis. The manner in which the chemistry varies with those proportions allows the chemistries of the individual materials to be separated,” Minitti explains.

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