NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity took 31 images in Gale Crater using its mast-mounted Right Navigation Camera (Navcam) to create this mosaic. Curiosity took the images on August 28, 2022, Sol 3576.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3579 duties.

It is a whole new world reports Elena Amador-French, Science Operations Coordinator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

After a successful weekend drive of 43 feet (13 meters), Curiosity finds itself in the middle of “Marker Band” valley.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3578, August 30, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Dramatic change

“The underlaying bedrock has changed dramatically over the last week, from dark and nodular to light-toned and relatively smooth,” Amador-French adds. “This area has been of interest to the science team since Gale crater was first selected as the landing site, 10 years in the making!”

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo acquired on Sol 3578, August 30, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The orbital mineralogical information suggests the presence of Magnesium sulfate (Mg-sulfate) bearing rocks in this area.

A newly scripted two sol plan (Sols 3578-3579) provides scientists their first opportunity to measure the dust-free chemical composition of this new type of bedrock with the rover’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument, the team chose the target “Micobie.”

Local context

In addition to Micobie, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) will image “Jacamim,” another bedrock target.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 3578, August 30, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 3578, August 30, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Also on the plan is using the Chemistry and Camera Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) on the bedrock target Jacamim.

“These measurements will help place our orbital measurements into local context and help us piece together the story of how the chemical composition of Mt. Sharp has changed over its history,” Amador-French points out. “Beyond studying the local bedrock, we are taking advantage of the fantastic 360 degree view around us to image exposures of the marker band on top and west of the ‘Bolivar’ butte, as well as the stratigraphy expressed on the ‘Orinoco’ and ‘Kulenan’ buttes using Mastcam and ChemCam.”

The plan calls for continuing the regular cadence of environmental monitoring measurements.

“Our drive will take us another 14 or so meters into Marker Band valley as we investigate how the orbital indicator of Mg-sulfate is expressed in the bedrock at the rover scale over the next week,” Amador-French concludes.

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