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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Curiosity sol 43 update: First science stop

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

19-09-2012 17:24 CDT

Topics: mission status, Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory)

It's now the early hours of sol 44, and JPL held a phone briefing today with the latest news from Curiosity. Before I hit the high points, I learned a new word today: "solorrow." When you're living on Mars time, it's confusing to use "tomorrow" to mean "the next sol on Mars" when that sol starts at some time totally unrelated to the time at which today becomes tomorrow on Earth. So if you're talking about Earth days, it's yesterday, today, and tomorrow; if you're talking about Mars sols, it's yestersol, tosol, and solorrow.

OK, here's the summary of the last and next few sols:

  • Curiosity has been driving, driving, driving; the odometer stands at close to 300 meters now.
  • They've been observing Phobos transits (on sols 37, 38, and 42), and a Deimos transit on sol 42. Not many of those images are down yet; I'm going to wait to write about those until I have more data to play with. Opportunity has also been imaging Phobos transits, but at a lower frame rate. (Oppy gets one frame per 3 to 10 seconds, while Curiosity gets 2 frames per second with her right eye and 3 with her left.)
  • The target of the most recent (sol 43) drive was a pyramidal rock that has been named for Jake Matijevic (read more about him here).
  • Jake Matijevic will be the first rock target for APXS and MAHLI. It's dark and is most likely an example of Mars' ubiquitous basalt, a bit of ejecta thrown from some distant crater. Since we know what this stuff looks like, it's a good first target for the science instruments.
  • Solorrow will be a "restricted sol," where the planning time is shorter than usual because of the timing of the communications pass. They'll do a little arm work but nothing fancy.
  • On sol 45, they'll bump to Jake Matijevic. "Bump" is a term that the rover missions use to describe the final approach to an interesting rock target. I presume that after the bump they'll take a bunch of photos with various cameras to document the work volume. "Work volume" refers to the region that Curiosity can reach with the arm and its tools.
  • On sol 46, they'll do an APXS measurement on the rock -- Curiosity's first APXS of a Mars target -- and also take MAHLI images. If time permits, they'll use Chemcam as well. If not, the Chemcam measurements will happen on sol 47.
  • They will not use the brush or any other turret tools on Jake Matijevic.
  • When they're done with Chemcam, the next sol will see them on the road toward Glenelg again. Curiosity has crested a small rise so can now see Glenelg with her cameras.
  • There is still much work to be done to prepare the soil sampling tools for their first use, and once they've found a suitable target (John Grotzinger suggested a little windblown sand drift would be perfect), it'll take them roughly three weeks to work through that.

I've updated my sol-by-sol summary with these notes.

Curiosity route map to sol 43

NASA / JPL / UA / Phil Stooke

Curiosity route map to sol 43
You can actually see the rock "Jake Matijevic" in the HiRISE image if you click to enlarge; it is just to the right of the label for the sol 43 drive.
See other posts from September 2012


Or read more blog entries about: mission status, Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory)


MikeHuggins: 09/20/2012 04:11 CDT

Not to rain on Curiosity's parade, but has anyone seen some of the latest Opportunity rock photos? Very, very interesting rocks: AND

kerbenbenker: 09/21/2012 09:53 CDT

NASA guys are taking their sweet time to work on various mission task...!!!???##@@

fthurber: 09/21/2012 01:49 CDT

I have no problem with JPL taking their time; they know what they are doing. Emily L. warned us that results will be slow in coming so I am OK with this, but still... I think that the most interesting development that I am waiting for is the SAM TLS methane results. JPL scientists promised us something this week, but then at the press conference they said it would be another week at least. As I see it, there are two Big Questions: Was any methane detected and what was the carbon isotope ratio of the methane if detected. Gale is not near a known methane plume so you have to wonder....I seem to remember that during the first run the results were skewed because of contamination; hopefully that problem is under control. As you know, the ratio of carbon 12 to 13 is a good clue to the origins of organic chemicals since life (at least Earth life) preferentially uses carbon-12.

DonInMaine: 09/21/2012 09:17 CDT

How does Curiosity's "meters per marshour" compare with Spririt/Opportunity. i.e. How much faster does it go? It took S/O quite a while to get that far, no?

fthurber: 09/22/2012 08:13 CDT

As far as the drive speed, they are still being cautious until they can confirm that all their hazard avoidance software works correctly. Even then I doubt MSL will go faster than Opportunity which is fine.

fthurber: 09/22/2012 08:16 CDT

One last thought on the SAM tunable laser spectrometer (TLS); it is so sensitive that I have wonder if methane vaporizes off plastic parts in the rover and is picked up by TLS. I wish they would at least tell us if ANY methane has been detected...

Casey Dreier (TPS): 09/22/2012 12:41 CDT

@kerbenbenker I've heard over and over again from people in the mission that Curiosity is exponentially more complicated than Spirit or Opportunity. They're playing it very, very safe. They feel they have more time to spare, too, since the nominal mission is a full martian year (~668 sols) vs. 90 sols for MER.

kerbenbenker: 09/25/2012 10:57 CDT

Perhaps overdoing playing safe.They where carefull with other rovers too.

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