Curiosity as of Sol 3042. Distance Driven 15.35 miles/24.71 kilometers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 3046 tasks.

Ken Herkenhoff, a planetary geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, reports that a recent drive by the robot on Sol 3044 brought it to “an area mostly covered by dark sand, with very few exposed rocks in the arm workspace.”

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image taken on Sol 3045, February 28, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Still, any good for contact science?

“Unfortunately, none of the rocks that the arm can reach are large enough to be brushed by the [Dust Removal Tool] DRT, but they don’t look too dust-covered.”

That being the case, researchers decided to plan Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) images and Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) integrations on two of them, “Pazayac” and “Sadillac.”

“Pazayac” and “Sadillac” (visible below and right of center in this image taken by Curiosity’s Left Navigation Camera Sol 3042 February 25, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Distant ridges

But first, Navcam will search for clouds and dust devils, the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will acquire Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) mosaics of a nearby rock named “Sourzac” and distant sulfate-bearing outcrops, Herkenhoff notes. Also, the rover’s Mastcam will take an image of Sourzac and stereo mosaics of nearby sedimentary textures and distant periodic ridges.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo acquired on Sol 3045, February 28, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

“After the two MAHLI full suites, APXS will be placed on Sadillac for an evening integration, then on Pazayac for an overnight integration,” Herkenhoff adds.

On Sol 3045, Curiosity’s robotic arm was slated to be moved out of the way for ChemCam passive rasters on a rock dubbed “Saussignac,” on Pazayac, and on a soil target named “Sableronne.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3045, February 28, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Then Mastcam was scheduled to acquire multispectral observations of Saussignac and the contact science targets before the rover drives about 295 feet (90 meters) toward the east-southeast.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3045, February 28, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Twilight survey

After sunset, Herkenhoff explains, Mastcam is slated to perform a twilight survey of the sky and the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) was ready to take another twilight image.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera images clouds at Gale crater. Photo taken on Sol 3043, February 27, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“The vehicle will get some well-earned rest on the third sol,” Herkenhoff adds, with only a few atmospheric observations by Mastcam, Navcam and the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS).

Lastly, early on Sol 3047, Navcam was set to again search for clouds and image the rover deck, and Mastcam will measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, Herkenhoff concludes.

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