Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B image taken on Sol 1707 May 26, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Now in Sol 1708, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is inspecting “White Ledge” along with “an otherworldly jumble of in-place bedrock, tilted rocks, sand with small ripples, and local pebbly debris piles,” reports Roger Wiens, Curiosity’s Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) principal investigator at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

“Vera Rubin Ridge continues to loom larger in the rover’s forward view, although progress is somewhat slow due to the difficult terrain,” Wiens explains.

The robot just made a drive of 52 feet (16 meters).

Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 1707, May 26, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Stay warm

“Just 20 sols ago we passed the northern vernal equinox, but the rover is ‘down under’ (at 4 degrees south latitude), so we’ve just started the fall season. For those readers in the Earth’s northern hemisphere, it’s like about October 1 on Earth. Over the next half of a Mars year (or nearly one Earth year) the rover will have a little less power for driving, arm deployment, and instrument activities as it spends a little more energy keeping itself warm,” Wiens reports.

The body of the rover is kept warm by a fluid loop that distributes heat from the radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) to the rover body, but the extremities (arm, wheels, and mast) need to be heated electrically.

“As a result, the rover will take one day to recharge its battery this weekend,” Wiens comments. “It’s a holiday weekend in the U.S. and much of Europe, so why shouldn’t Curiosity have a day off too?”

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1705, May 24, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

No holiday

Upcoming, there’s a “soliday,” but that’s not a rover holiday Wiens noted.

“In fact, it’s not a day on Mars at all. Rather, it’s an extra day we have on Earth every 37 Mars days due to the shorter day on Earth,” Wiens says. “So Mars has one less day for this holiday weekend. All told, the rover will be working two days this weekend.”

Wiens said that the “beautiful White Ledge” that’s right in front of the rover is captivating, so the science team has decided to spend two Mars days doing lots of analyses.

That involves interrogating the ledge with two different arm placements, an evening Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) integration on a location named “Patty Lot Hill,” and an APXS night integration on “White Ledge” after using the dust removal tool (DRT).

Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) is slated to take images of these targets the following sol.

Extra precaution

“We are taking extra precautions in case the rather thin ledge breaks when we place the arm on it. We are also interrogating the ledge with Mastcam and ChemCam,” Wiens pointed out.

Other ChemCam targets include “Shooting Ledge” (a rocky ridge just behind “White Ledge”), “Middle Ledge” behind and to the left, and “Halfway Mountain,” a sand ripple crest.

Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite is doing an atmospheric measurement. The robot’s Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) and Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) are taking measurements this weekend too, “so it is an ‘all-instruments’ weekend,” Wiens adds, except for the Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin).

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1705, May 24, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Good vantage point

Curiosity is posed to drive “to a good vantage point,” Wiens concludes, roughly 60 feet (20 meters) from its present spot.

“We also managed to slip in Mastcam Sun observations and a ChemCam sky spectral observation on Tuesday morning — Sol 1712 — before the next uplink of activities from Earth,” Wiens concludes.


Travelogue map

Just issued is a Curiosity traverse map through Sol 1707.

This map shows the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 1707 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (May 26, 2017). Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up. The scale bar is 1 kilometer (~0.62 mile).

From Sol 1705 to Sol 1707, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 45.15 feet (13.76 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 10.26 miles (16.52 kilometers).

The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

One Response to “Curiosity Rover on Mars: Otherworldly Inspection Duties”

  • Nathan Funk says:

    Incredible work. So much is being added to scientific knowledge. I’m very proud of the work you all are doing.

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