Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3082, April 8, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3083 tasks.

The robot is near the transition between the “Glasgow” member and the sulfate-bearing unit. “As this is a major geologic transition, the science team is trying to get as much data as possible before moving away,” reports Ashley Stroupe, a mission operations engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Curiosity’s location on Sol 3081. Distance driven 15.53 miles (25.00 kilometers) Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

New plans called for Curiosity to do a “touch-and-go,” performing contact and targeted remote science before driving away.

Bedrock slab

First, Curiosity was to get some arm exercise in, doing Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) observations of “Puymangou,” a dark spot on a bedrock slab in front of the rover.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image acquired on Sol 3082, April 7, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Science will test if the color difference represents a difference in composition relative to the nearby bedrock,” Stroupe adds. “For the Rover Planners (of which I am one today), this is a challenging target because it is small and a little raised relative to the surrounding parts of the rock. We also need to avoid the nearby pockets of sand trapped by the surface roughness of the rock. After the arm activities, Curiosity will stow the arm to prepare for driving.”

Curiosity Mast Camera imagery taken on Sol 3081 April 6, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS



Sedimentary structures

Before driving away, there is a set of targeted science observations with Curiosity’s Mastcam. “In addition to a small 3×3 mosaic of the contact science target, we will take a large stereo mosaic of “Mont Mercou” from the southwest to get more views of the sedimentary structures of the ridge,” Stroupe explains.

Curiosity Mast Camera Right photo taken on Sol 3081, April 6, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

In addition to all the images taken from other locations around Mont Mercou, Stroupe adds that this last set will enable researchers to build a complete 3-D model of the feature.

In this same pre-drive time, the rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will also do a passive sky observation as part of our environmental suite.

Good viewshed

“Then, we say goodbye to Mont Mercou and begin our drive, about 30 meters [98 feet] to the south-southwest. The terrain in this area is both quite rocky and has patches of sand, providing another challenge for the Rover Planners,” Stroupe notes.

“Curiosity will wind her way around some of the sharper rocks and bigger patches of sand in order to land on a high point that should provide a good viewshed for planning the next drive, as well as landing on some bedrock to enable contact science in the weekend plan,” Stroupe reports. “The Rover Planners (and Curiosity’s wheels) are definitely looking forward to being further south, where the terrain is more benign and our drives will no longer need to look like a slalom track.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo taken on Sol 3081, April 6, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Cloudy skies

After the drive, researchers will take some imaging to support the next drive, as well as some additional ChemCam observations of the sky and its calibration targets in order to continue to monitor the health of the instrument.

“Just around sunset, we will do another set of cloud observations with Mastcam and Navcam in the hopes of getting yet another spectacular image of the Martian cloudy skies,” Stroupe says, and a Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) image of the ground below the rover.

Also on tap is the robot performing environmental observations, including a dust devil movie and a supra-horizon movie, as well as some twilight Mastcam images, Stroupe adds.

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