The “Mary Anning” drill area as seen by Curiosity’s left navigation camera on Sol 2843, August 5, 2020. The “Ayton” target is towards the top left corner of the same block that the drill hole is in.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2850 duties.

Lucy Thompson, a planetary geologist at the University of New Brunswick: Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada reports that Mars researchers are making a wish list on Mars.

“We are keeping a list of observations we would like to make before we leave the ‘Mary Anning’  drill site,” Thompson says.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo acquired on Sol 2848, August 10, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Conserve power

The reason is advanced by trying to conserve power in order to complete all the upcoming Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite activities on the Mary Anning drilled sample.

“We are only able to plan roughly 30 minutes of science observations,” Thompson adds. “It doesn’t take long to come up with 30 minutes worth of observations at this interesting location, hence our wish list!”

Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 2849, August 11, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

When this plan is uplinked, Curiosity will spend the 30 minutes of science time using the rover’s Mastcam to:

1) image the drill site, to monitor movement of drill fines and sand during this windy period on Mars, and

2) extend imaging of the drill site area.

Dumping grounds

“The majority of other activities will be centered around preparing the Sample Acquisition, Processing and Handling (SA/SPaH) system to dump the remaining Mary Anning drilled sample in the next plan.

A Navcam dust devil survey and standard background use of the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) and the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) are also included in this plan.

Thompson notes that, with sample still in SA/SPaH, scientists are unable to use the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) until the drilled sample is dumped.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2848, August 10, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Extra observation

“We will analyze the Mary Anning drilled sample (both the material dumped from SA/SPaH, and the powder surrounding the drilled hole) as part of our standard, upcoming drill-related activities,” Thompson reports. “However, we are also hoping to squeeze in an extra observation of a close by, compositionally and texturally interesting area, previously analyzed by the robot’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) of target “Ayton.”

“We have to take into consideration power, timing, how complex the proposed activity is, etc.),” Thompson notes. “We’ll have to see how many activities we get to cross off our wish list before we leave here!”

As always, dates of planned rover activities are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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