Sol 2972 Distance Driven 14.78 miles (23.78 kilometers)
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2975 tasks.

After two busy sols of science, the rover will continue to drive even further into the rubbly terrain on her way to a large sand sheet just south of its current location (seen in the background of this Navcam left image taken on Sol 2972, December 15, 2020.)
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“With the successful completion of Monday’s drive, Curiosity has entered a new geologic unit that is characterized by a particularly rubbly surface texture,” reports Mariah Baker, a planetary geologist at the Center for Earth & Planetary Studies, Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum.

“From orbit, this distinct geomorphology is also accompanied by a unique spectral signature, which piqued the team’s interest and motivated a short contact science stop within this unit,” Baker adds. “The ground truth data acquired during this stop will be crucial in determining why the rocks here look so different from others we have encountered along the traverse.”

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 2974, December 18, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Science blocks

A recent plan called for two hefty 2-hour-long science blocks and no drive, which allowed scientists to collect double the data at this unusual stop before the rover drives away.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 2974, December 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Full contact science with the rover’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) was planned for a pair of targets, “Cod Baa” and “Carn Mor” (with a bonus MAHLI observation on “An Dun”), and the dual science blocks were filled to the brim with remote science activities.

Chemistry and Camera Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) measurements and Mastcam documentation images were to be acquired on bedrock targets “Cod Baa,” “Northmavine,” and “St Abbs,” as well as soil target “Houster.”

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 2974, December 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Rock surfaces, sand ripples

Four Mastcam mosaics will provide extended coverage of nearby rock surfaces and sand ripples, and two long distance ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) observations allow a closer look at distant rock outcrops, Baker explains.

“Two Mastcam multispectral observations will also provide additional data on the rubbly surface around the rover,” Baker adds.


“Along with acquiring data on the local geology, the team also planned a large set of observations aimed at studying current environmental conditions.”

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 2974, December 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Busy sols of science

The first science block planned called for Navcam zenith and suprahorizon movies, a Mastcam tau image to measure atmospheric dust levels, and a Navcam image of the rover deck to monitor wind.

The second science block was slated to include two Navcam line-of-sight observations, a Navcam dust devil survey, and a Mastcam image of the crater rim, all of which will help assess ongoing dust activity.

“After two busy sols of science, the rover will continue to drive even further into the rubbly terrain on her way to a large sand sheet just south of our current location,” Baker concludes.

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