Image of layered block named “Mary Anning” — possible next drill target — taken by Curiosity’s Left Navigation Camera on Sol 2829.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Mary Anning.
Courtesy: Biodiversity Heritage Library

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2832 tasks.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image taken on Sol 2831, July 23, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Reports Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist at Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland: “Our drive in the last plan successfully placed at what we hope is our next drill site, the large, lovely, layered block. (photo at left). It is always exciting to name a new drill target, but the new name, ‘Mary Anning,’ is particularly special.

Minitti explains that Mary Anning spent her life scouring the seaside cliffs near Lyme Regis, along the southern coast of England, for fossils. “She uncovered innumerable samples, most notably the first full Ichthyosaur and the first Plesiosaur.”

But as all too often occurs in society, Minitti adds, “Mary Anning’s gender and societal status led her groundbreaking work and discoveries to be dismissed by the scientific establishment or, worse, appropriated by men. Let Mary Anning’s name on Mars remind us to include everyone in the endeavor of exploration.”

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2831, July 23, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Drilling next week

Curiosity Mars teams have played a role in planning the five sols that will accomplish the work necessary to attempt drilling next week, Minitti notes.

The robot’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will measure the chemistry of both the primary and back up Mary Anning drill targets, in addition to “Carter Fell,” another target on the large bedrock slab the rover will drill.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo acquired on Sol 2831, July 23, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Gauge its hardness

The Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) will also analyze the chemistry of the primary Mary Anning target, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) will image the target in detail, and then rover planners will push the drill bit into the drill target to gauge its hardness and test its ability to withstand the force of the drill activity.

Imaging of region

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2831, July 23, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-CaltechImaging of region

“Mastcam will acquire a 360 degree panoramic mosaic of our surroundings, which documents the context of our drill location within the Glen Torridon region and facilitates planning for more detailed imaging of the region,” Minitti reports. “Since the workspace is obviously of interest, Mastcam will also acquire a detailed stereo mosaic that covers the workspace.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image acquired on Sol 2829, July 21, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity’s Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) will conduct an empty cell analysis, Minitti adds, and the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite will test out analysis techniques, each in preparation for analyzing the next drill sample.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2830, July 22, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Skyward looks

“Even as our attention is drawn to the rocks around us, dust storm season swirls about Curiosity, warranting our attention on the skies as well. ChemCam will turn its spectrometers skyward in passive mode to observe a wide area of the sky in order to measure concentrations of minor gases (especially oxygen and water) and dust,” Minitti points out.

Combinations of Navcam and Mastcam will monitor the amount of dust in the atmosphere early in the morning, around midday, and later in the afternoon; Navcam will also look for dust devils around midday and clouds early in the morning.

Long plan

Also on tap, the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) and the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) are slated to make dozens of measurements across four sols.

The rover’s Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) will make regular measurements of Martian weather conditions throughout the plan, Minitti concludes. “It is the lone star of the show on the final sol of the plan, dutifully working away as the rest of the instruments take a much needed break at the end of the long plan.”

Leave a Reply