Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B image taken on Sol 1645, March 23, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Curiosity Mars rover is now in Sol 1646, following a drive of roughly 65 feet (20 meters) the previous sol.

Curiosity has wheeled toward the big sand dune to the east that is the subject of a science campaign that will possibly start next week.

Traction control

“Another drive toward the east is planned for Sol 1646, with post-drive imaging to set up for contact science,” reports Ken Herkenhoff of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. “The drive will include the first use on Mars of traction control software that’s been tested and fine-tuned in JPL’s Mars Yard since last April.”

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1645, March 23, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Herkenhoff adds that this new software allows the rover to drive “softer,” meaning that when the rover detects that a wheel is driving over a rock, it slows the other five wheels to avoid pushing the wheel into the rock while the wheel climbs over the rock.

“Curiosity’s first use of traction control has been planned for months to begin about now,” Herkenhoff notes, “and is intended to validate the new software for optional use in future drives.”

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1643, March 21, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Layered outcrops

Before the planned Sol 1646 drive, the rover’s Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) will observe targets “Bald Rock Ledge” and “Porcupine Dry Ledge” on one of the layered outcrops to the right of the rover.

Then the robot’s Right Mastcam is slated to acquire mosaics of layered outcrops. After the drive, Navcam is slated to again search for dust devils and ChemCam will observe a target selected by Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science, or AEGIS software.

Lastly, Curiosity’s Navcam will search for clouds and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite to perform an engineering baseline test.

Curiosity rover’s location for Sol 1645.
The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona


Road map

Meanwhile, a map depicting the Curiosity rover’s location for Sol 1645 shows the route driven by the robot through the 1645 Martian day, or sol as of March 23, 2017.

Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up.

From Sol 1643 to Sol 1645, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 67.68 feet (20.63 meters).

Since touching down in Bradbury Landing in August 2012, the NASA rover has driven 9.87 miles (15.88 kilometers).

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