Curiosity Mastcam Left image acquired on Sol 1850, October 20, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Now in Sol 1852, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is continuing its scientific sleuthing in a target-rich setting on the Red Planet.

Reports Ken Herkenhoff, a planetary geologist at the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona, the robot drove over 65 feet (20 meters) on Sol 1850, wheeling into an area with lots of bedrock exposed.

“We had several nice targets to choose from, but were limited in what we could plan because we want to prepare for a SAM evolved gas analysis (EGA) of sand from “Ogunquit Beach,” which requires significant power,” Herkenhoff notes.

SAM stands for Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1850, October 19, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


Mars time

Scientists planned two sols to become synced back up with “Mars time” on Monday, so the rover will not be driving this weekend.

“Despite the power constraints,” Herkenhoff adds, “we were able to plan a lot of activities today.”

Sol 1852 will start with using the robot’s Navcam to search for clouds and dust devils, followed by Mastcam mosaics of the expected path ahead (southward).

The path ahead as observed by Curiosity’s Navcam Left B camera on Sol 1850, October 20, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Then Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and Right Mastcam will observe bedrock target “Balfour” and a block named “Ripon.”

Laser cleaning

Also on tap is use of the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to acquire a full suite of images of Balfour before the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) is placed on the target for an overnight integration.

“We considered brushing Balfour before examining it with MAHLI and APXS, but to save time/power we decided not to. The ChemCam laser often cleans dust off of the surface of rock targets, so we’re hoping that will suffice on Balfour,” Herkenhoff explains.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo acquired on Sol 1850, October 19, 2017. MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Sample drop-off

On Sol 1853, the long-awaited drop-off of the Ogunquit Beach sample to SAM is planned.

“This activity was delayed by the drill anomaly and the testing that followed, so we are excited to be planning it today,” Herkenhoff concludes. If all goes well, the SAM EGA will take place this coming Monday.

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