Curiosity update, sol 227: Some sharpshooting and a dusty deck
Curiosity is back to science operations, though the activities are limited in scope by the fact that conjunction is fast approaching. (When Mars is behind the Sun as seen from Earth, our ability to communicate with our Mars spacecraft is severely limited. Because we can't get data down from them and because we couldn't rescue them if something went wrong, they have to go into a reduced activity period, performing only extremely safe operations producing a relatively low amount of data from a command sequence lasting three weeks or so.)
They've dropped one more sample from the John Klein drill hole to SAM. I noticed in a Mastcam photo of the SAM inlet tubes that the rover has really accumulated some dust over the last few months. Compare the view of those SAM inlet ports taken on sol 90:
NASA / JPL / MSSS
SAM inlet ports, sol 90
To this view, taken on sol 227:
NASA / JPL / MSSS
SAM inlet ports, sol 227
If the rover team is still a little cautious with the drill and SAM and Chemin, the ChemCam team has clearly gotten comfortable with their laser gun. Check out this bit of sharpshooting: Chemcam performed a profile up the visible wall of the John Klein drill hole, shooting at five spots inside it and one just outside it.
NASA / JPL / LANL / CNES / IRAP / Glen Nagle
Pew Pew Pew! Curiosity Chemcam profiles a drill hole, sol 227
On sol 227 (March 27, 2013), Curiosity used its ChemCam to shoot a profile of six laser shots up the visible wall of the John Klein drill hole.
They followed this feat by strafing the tailings pile. Pew pew pew! Jokes about Curiosity's laser are never going to get old. The day I think that shooting things with a laser-equipped robot on Mars is boring is the day I should quit writing about space.