Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1338, May 11, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1338, May 11, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

Word is that there’s a change of plans for using the wheeled robot. An over the weekend long drive of the robot has been put off.

Ken Herkenhoff of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona reports why that’s the case.

Fresh rock surfaces

“There was enough interest in the fresh rock surfaces exposed near the rover that we decided to investigate them instead,” Herkenhoff explains. Before the Mars science team could decide whether to “bump” the rover to the rocks that were broken when it drove over them, scientists had to make sure they could be well imaged by the robot’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI).

“Taking MAHLI images of nearly vertical faces is difficult, because the turret at the end of the arm must be placed close to the ground,” Herkenhoff adds. “While the Strategic Rover Planner worked to find ways to get MAHLI close to the fresh surfaces, we planned pre-drive remote sensing and arm activities.”

Curiosity Mastcam Right Sol 1333 May 6, 2016

Bedrock brush off

On Sol 1341, the plan calls for the Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) to observe its calibration target, a bedrock target named “Kobos 3,” and the wall of the Okoruso drill hole.

Mastcam is then to provide context for the ChemCam observations and take stereo mosaics of “Naob” and other bedrock near the rover.

Later in the day on Mars, the Dirt Removal Tool (DRT) is scheduled to be used to brush dust off a brighter layer in the bedrock. MAHLI imagery will be taken before and after that brushing, Herkenhoff points out.

The plan also calls for close-up MAHLI images to be taken of a nearby bedrock target dubbed “Mariquita” and a lower-resolution MAHLI mosaic of the area including Mariquita.

Also on tap is use of the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) to measure the chemistry of the brush spot overnight, before another busy sol begins.

Broken rocks

Curiosity’s robotic arm is to be stowed, making possible a Mastcam multispectral observation of the brush spot before the rover bumps over to the broken rocks.

During the drive, the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument is to actively measure the subsurface hydrogen content by turning on its neutron generator.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1333, May 6, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1333, May 6, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

After acquiring post-drive images, the rover will take a nap before the Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) performs another overnight analysis of the Okoruso drill sample.

Autonomous software

Early on the morning of Sol 1343, Navcam will search for clouds and dust devils, and Mastcam will measure the optical thickness of dust in the atmosphere.

Later that sol, ChemCam will use the NASA-created, newly-validated Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) software to acquire ChemCam Laser Induced Breakdown Spectrometer (LIBS) data that identifies rock composition.

Concludes Herkenhoff : “Of course, we are hoping that the software continues to work well!”

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