Curiosity will soon drill “Edinburgh” bedrock. The rover used its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, to produce this image on March 14, 2020, Sol 2703.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2710 tasks. The coronavirus pandemic has meant increased teleworking of Mars science teams to operate the robot on the Red Planet.

“In light of recent events, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has transitioned to teleworking for most employees. For the last few weeks, we have been making preparations so that our rover operations can be carried out with the JPL-based members of the team working remotely,” reports Rachel Kronyak, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Luckily, most of the science team has been working remotely for years!”

So, for most of the Mars science team, “it’s business as usual, which has helped smooth our transition to full teleworking,” Kronyak adds.

Weekend plan

Recently the team planned a 3-sol weekend plan. Despite the ramp up to fully remote operations, a jam-packed plan of activities has been scripted, centering around drilling target “Edinburgh!”

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 2706, March 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The weekend plan for Sol 2710 is kicked off with a long science block full of both geological and environmental-focused observations.

During the science block, Curiosity is to perform a Mastcam multispectral observation of the “Eshaness” target. This target has previously been surveyed by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and also underwent a buffing via the Dust Removal Tool (DRT).

Also scheduled is collecting Chemistry and Camera Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (ChemCam LIBS) data on two nearby targets including a soil target “Digg” and bedrock target “Eaglesham,” along with corresponding Mastcam documentation images.

Curiosity Mast Camera image taken on Sol 2706, March 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Environmental observations

To wrap up the science block, Kronyak notes, Curiosity will make some standard atmospheric observations, including a Navcam dust devil survey, a Mastcam solar tau (observing aerosol (i.e. dust and such) scattering properties in the air), and a Mastcam crater rim extinction image.

Curiosity’s Dust Removal Tool (DRT) is seen in this Mast Camera photo acquired on Sol 2706, March 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“We have another science block in the early morning of Sol 2711, during which we’ll perform a similar suite of environmental observations as well as a Mastcam 360-degree mosaic,” Kronyak reports. “These hefty mosaics are especially useful during our drill campaigns, as they provide great context for our drilling operations and the broader geology around us.”

The current plan has the rest of Sol 2711 dedicated to drilling the target “Edinburgh.”

This map shows the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 2702 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (March 13, 2020). Since landing on Mars in August 2012, Curiosity has driven nearly 14 miles (23 kilometers)
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Drill tailings

Following a much-deserved night of sleep, Curiosity will wake up on Sol 2712 for the last science block of the weekend plan, Kronyak explains.

During the science block, the rover will take dust devil survey and line-of-sight images with its Navcam. Next, the rover will use ChemCam’s passive mode (no laser) to observe the Edinburgh drill tailings as well as use the Remote Micro Imager (RMI) telescope to take a long-distance mosaic of the target “Three Lochs,” an area further up the Greenheugh pediment.

“We’ll round out the plan by using Mastcam to take a multispectral observation of the Edinburgh drill tailings and take a stereo mosaic to expand our coverage of the ‘Hilltop’ area, first imaged on Sol 2705,” Kronyak says.

“We managed to plan a very full weekend plan for Curiosity, and had a very smooth day of planning for Curiosity’s operations team,” Kronyak concludes. “It’s full steam (or rather, drill) ahead! Stay safe, and continue to explore Mars with us!”

Selfie taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover on Feb. 26, 2020 (the 2,687th Martian day, or sol, of the mission). The crumbling rock layer at the top of the image is “the Greenheugh Pediment,” which Curiosity climbed soon after taking the image.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Curiosity will soon drill “Edinburgh” bedrock. The rover used its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, on March 14, 2020, Sol 2703.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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