Curiosity Mastcam Left image acquired on Sol 1822, September 21, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS



NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover is now carrying out Sol 1824 duties.

“Curiosity continues her traverse across the lowermost portions of Vera Rubin Ridge, where she continues to investigate the interesting rock textures and colors ahead,” reports Mark Salvatore, a planetary geologist from the University of Michigan in Dearborn. “Our current location is quite dusty, which motivated the science team to focus on a relatively quick characterization of the surrounding bedrock.”

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo taken on Sol 1822, September 21, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Before a rover drive, Curiosity was on tap to create a high-resolution Mastcam mosaic of a region to the southwest of its current location.

“This region was identified from orbit as a potential region of interest, as it shows a relatively steep slope with some potentially interesting bedrock exposures,” Salvatore notes. “Ever since ascending onto Vera Rubin Ridge, Curiosity has been making progress towards this location to determine whether it is worth investigating from close-range.”

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 1822, September 21, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Blanket the area

Salvatore explains that the region doesn’t appear all that different from the parts of the ridge that Curiosity has already been exploring. “So, instead of continuing the southwest drive towards this location, the team decided to blanket the area in high-resolution color imagery before turning to the east-southeast and towards another region of interest.”

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B image acquired on Sol 1822, September 21, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Updating the rover’s planned traverse path using both orbital and ground-based data is very common, Salvatore points out, “and this decision by the science team highlights how collaborative discussions and the ability to adjust plans in real-time can both save time and maximize the scientific return of the mission.”

Uplink issue

A network communications problem on Earth, however, resulted in a Sol 1823 plan not being uplinked to the roving robot. That resulted in Curiosity performing a “runout” sol when only basic activities are performed, reports Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“But we picked up right where we left off…and created a packed list of science activities to keep Curiosity busy over the weekend,” Guzewich adds. “We recovered the lost science on targets ‘Sherwood Forest’ and ‘Tableland’” which includes Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and Mastcam examinations of both and contact science on Sherwood Forest, he notes.

Fantasy-themed target

Another fantasy-themed named target was added in ‘Troll Valley’ that will be examined by contact science with the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and remotely by ChemCam and Mastcam.

Curiosity Rear Hazcam Right B photo taken on Sol 1822, September 21, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Also planned was an extensive suite of environmental monitoring, including a ChemCam passive sky observation, Guzewich explains, where the ChemCam instrument is used without the laser to study atmospheric dust, ice, and gases.

Mastcam and Navcam images are to determine the amount of dust in the atmosphere as well as search for clouds. “We are entering the cloudy time of year on Mars and expect more clouds over the next several months,” Guzewich says.

Curiosity is slated to drive to the third stop of its Vera Rubin Ridge science campaign, stopping near a small, dark-toned ridge.

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