Curiosity’s location on Sol 3571. Distance driven to that sol: 17.76 miles/28.58 kilometers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3572 duties.

“We are almost through Paraitepuy pass, an area between two large buttes that has made for tricky driving while dealing with communication challenges, sand and broken-up rocks,” reports Lucy Thompson, a planetary geologist at University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 3572, August 24, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“But the end is in sight as we near an area identified from orbit as probably containing hydrated magnesium sulfates, in contrast with the clay-bearing unit that we have been transitioning out of,” Thompson adds.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 3572, August 24, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Broken-up bedrock

“Before we get there though, the team noticed that there is an area that appears quite different from what we have been driving over, and the upcoming, potentially sulfate-rich area. The broken-up bedrock is characterized by numerous, relatively large, resistant features,” Thompson points out.

Although researchers recently had these rocks in front of the rover, because of a low data volume downlink from the previous plan, they did not have the imaging necessary to safely place the arm and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instruments on the rocks.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3572, August 24, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Thompson, as the APXS strategic planner this week, advocated for trying to get APXS compositional data on these rocks before the robot drives away.

“We therefore prioritized driving in this plan to put us in a good position to do contact science on one of these interesting rocks in tomorrow’s plan. Given that these ‘nodule-rich’ rocks occur in the vicinity of the ‘sulfate-bearing’ area mapped from orbit, the team decided that it was important to fully characterize them,” Thompson reports. “They could provide insights into the processes that occurred in the rocks as we change from clay-bearing to sulfate-bearing.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3572, August 24, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Document textures

Although Mars researchers could not do contact science, they took full advantage of Curiosity’s remote sensing instruments to investigate the rocks immediately in front of the rover, as well as attempting to place them in context with outcrops exposed in the surrounding buttes.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 3572, August 24, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) was slated to acquire compositional data on an exposure of the nodular bedrock, “Isla Cangrejo,” which will also be imaged with Mastcam.

Mastcam images were to also be obtained of “Kulishiri,” “Jiboia,” and “Altana Creek” to further document textures.

Nodule rich material

Also in the plan is producing a Mastcam mosaic of a section of the Bolivar butte to look at possible exposures of the nodule rich material, and the relationship with underlying and overlying strata.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 3571, August 23, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

To fully document the terrain around and below us, a Mastcam starboard mosaic and Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) image were also planned.

Also busy, the environmental science team planned several observations to continue monitoring changes in atmospheric conditions. These included: a Navcam large dust devil survey and cosmic ray survey. Standard Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) and Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) activities round out this plan, Thompson concluded.

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