Curiosity Navcam Right B image taken on Sol 1858, October 28, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


The Curiosity Mars rover is now in Sol 1858, busily engaged in performing a “working weekend,” reports Mark Salvatore, a planetary geologist at the University of Michigan in Dearborn.

“Following a series of setbacks this week, Curiosity is on track to have a productive, albeit stationary, weekend,” Salvatore explains.

Series of headaches

Last week’s communication issue and possible difficulties in delivering the “Ogunquit Beach” sample to the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, Salvatore adds, “have given the science team a series of headaches as we try to make progress along Vera Rubin Ridge.”

Curiosity Rear Hazcam Left B image acquired on Sol 1857, October 27, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Regarding the sample, the NASA robot’s Mastcam images last week showed that the sample may not have made it into the SAM instrument, reported Rachel Kronyak, a planetary geologist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville last week. As a precautionary measure, it was decided to forego the analysis due to a chance that the SAM sample cup is empty.

In addition, the team discovered an error with the left Mastcam data transfer that has marked the instrument temporarily “sick” and is preventing researchers from acquiring new data from it until after the weekend plan. “Nonetheless, the team is optimistic moving into the weekend, and has planned a really nice suite of observations,” Salvatore notes.

One more time

Curiosity is slated to try one more time to deliver the Ogunquit Beach sample to the SAM instrument, and SAM will hopefully perform an evolved gas analysis (EGA) on the sample overnight on the first evening of the weekend plan.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image taken on Sol 1858, October 28, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity is to spend the majority of Saturday sleeping and recharging, as the EGA analyses requires significant power to perform.

Toward the end of Saturday, Curiosity will image and brush a patch of flat bedrock in front of the rover named “Sibasa” and will analyze this patch of bedrock with the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument to accurately characterize the chemistry of this region. This will be an overnight measurement.

Local surroundings

On Sunday, Curiosity will spend two hours investigating the local surroundings with Mastcam images as well as ChemCam laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) measurements, Salvatore reports.

ChemCam is slated to analyze four separate targets: “Schmidtsdrif,” “Sibasa,” “Lisbon,” and “Estecourt.”

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager image acquired on Sol 1856, October 26, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Salvatore points out that Schmidtsdrif is a potentially hematite-rich target that is similar to iron-rich targets identified earlier by Curiosity. Sibasa is the brushed and imaged target that was also analyzed using the APXS instrument. Lisbon is a patch of dark soil near the rover. Estecourt is a raised block of material that is also similar to a previous sol’s target, and these analyses will hopefully allow for comparisons between targets.

“Mastcam imaging will not only document these ChemCam targets, but will also be used to acquire additional images further away from the rover to inspect the nature of the Vera Rubin Ridge from this location, and to help us plan for future traverses,” Salvatore notes. As the left Mastcam instrument is currently unavailable, all imaging will be done with Mastcam’s right “eye.”

Science ahead

With all of the headaches that arose last week, “the science team and rover planners have managed to again arrange for some wonderful science to be done with the resources that are currently available,” Salvatore says.

Curiosity Mastcam Right photo taken on Sol 1856, October 26, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

On Monday, rover researchers may have accomplished a successful EGA analysis on Ogunquit Beach, will have used the APXS instrument to characterize Sibasa, and will have a plethora of new Mastcam and ChemCam observations to understand this section of the Vera Rubin Ridge.

“Hopefully all of your weekends,” Salvatore concludes, “will be more relaxing than Curiosity’s!”

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