Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B image acquired on Sol 1799, August 28, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech



NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now closing out Sol 1799 duties.

The robot drove some 76 feet (23.3 meters) over the weekend bringing the robot even closer to the area it will ascend Vera Rubin Ridge.

“We have reached the point in the traverse where we are no longer headed east along the ridge, but instead are turning to the south where orbital data show the ridge has slopes shallow enough for Curiosity to climb,” reports Abigail Fraeman, a planetary geologist at NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1799, August 28, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Charge of the batteries

Curiosity acquired Mastcam and ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) images of the ridge in the weekend plan, including a last “official” approach imaging mosaic.

“These images continue to show very interesting, fine scale sedimentary structures that hold the secrets of how the lower ridge layers were deposited,” Fraeman notes.

One of the big challenges putting a new plan together was making sure the observations researchers wanted didn’t leave the rover’s batteries too drained at the end of the plan.

Curiosoty Navcam Right B image taken on Sol 1799, August 28, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We keep careful track of the expected state of charge of the batteries because we want to make sure they will last a long time, and because we want to have enough power available going into the next sol’s plan,” Fraeman points out. “Getting everything to fit inside power guidelines was challenging today in part because late autumn has come to Gale Crater. Colder temperatures mean we have to run heaters for longer, which takes more energy.”


Two sol script

A two sol plan has been scripted, starting off on Sol 1800 with contact science, including Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) observations of an interesting eroded Murray formation rock target named “Bauneg Beg.”

Following the contact science, Curiosity is to make ChemCam LIBS [laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy] observations of targets “Bucklin Rock” and “Gilkey Harbor,” and then take a 12×1 Mastcam right eye mosaic that will cover the area directly in front of the rover. Bucklin Rock looks similar to Bauneg Bag, and Gilkey Harbor is a dark, smooth rock.

Wheel inspection via Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). This photo acquired Sol 1798, August 27, 2017. MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Southward ho

“After our morning science, Curiosity will drive south towards Vera Rubin Ridge,” Fraeman adds.

“After the drive on sol 1801, Curiosity will do some untargeted remote sensing, including collecting some data from the ChemCam calibration targets, and taking a Navcam suprahorizon movie, performing a dust devil search, and looking at the Sun to assess the amount of dust in the atmosphere (a tau measurement),” Fraeman concludes.

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