Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image of “Mary Anning” taken on Sol 2844, August 6, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2844 duties.

The Sample Analysis at Mars tool is called SAM. SAM is made up of three different instruments that search for and measure organic chemicals and light elements that are important ingredients potentially associated with life.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Reports Sean Czarnecki, a planetary geologist at Arizona State University in Tempe, a recent plan called for Curiosity to drop off some of its newly acquired “Mary Anning” drill sample to the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite for Evolved Gas Analysis (EGA).

“During EGA, SAM bakes the powdered rock sample at up to 900°C (1652°F),” Czarnecki reports. “This releases, or ‘evolves,’ volatile compounds which are then measured.”

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo acquired on Sol 2843, August 5, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Surrounding countryside

In addition, Navcam will image the area in front of the rover and look for dust devils, Mastcam will take two stereo mosaics of the surrounding countryside, and Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN), Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) and the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) will continue to monitor the environment at this site.

Czarnecki adds that Curiosity is celebrating 8 years on Mars, landing on the Red Planet on August 5, 2012. “Since Curiosity is turning 8, we expect that celebrations in Gale Crater will include games like “Pin the Mast on the Rover” and “Red Rover” (“Red rover, red rover, send Perseverance on over!”) while enjoying treats from SAM’s bakery!”

Since its touchdown, the robot has driven slightly over 14 miles.

Strata at Base of Mount Sharp: This image, taken back when NASA’s Curiosity rover was at the base of Mount Sharp on March 24, 2014, indicates the rover’s approximate location as of July 30, 2020 – about 3 1/2 miles away (about 5 1/2 kilometers).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


Postcards from Mars

 Back on Earth, the MSL team is also celebrating with a retrospective in the form of 8 Martian postcards, such as a dust storm selfie, a descriptive tour of Gale Crater, a Martian cloud movie, and much more! You can see this striking selection of images from the past 8 years here:


“Thank you for following Curiosity’s journey for the last 8 years,” Czarnecki concludes. “We look forward to a ninth year and more of exciting exploration and discovery!”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2843, August 5, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Awaiting first results

In an earlier report from Catherine O’Connell-Cooper, a planetary geologist at University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, a recent plan also saw some drill sample delivered to the robot’s Chemical and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument, with Mars researchers eagerly awaiting the first results of that analysis.

“Today we planned a Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) preconditioning activity to get ready for sample drop off to SAM and analysis later in the week, O’Connell-Cooper explains, “which will catalogue the composition and check for traces of organic molecules in these rocks.”

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2843, August 5, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Power-hungry instrument

Because SAM is a very power-hungry instrument, scientists are budgeting most of their energy across this week around the SAM activities.

As the “precon” activity takes up most of our available energy today, the geology theme group (GEO) limited itself to re-imaging the drill hole using the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam), Mastcam and Navcam, O’Connell-Cooper adds.

This will allow Mars researchers to refine targeting of the drill hole by ChemCam, the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS), and Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) in future plans, when power is not as constrained as it is right now!

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2843, August 5, 2020



“We squeezed every last bit of power available for today’s planning, so that the environmental theme group (ENV) were able to get in some monitoring activities, looking for dust devils and dust in the atmosphere, as well as standard REMS (weather) and DAN activities,” O’Connell-Cooper concludes.

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