The last two months of the Curiosity mission have been spent on a southward drive toward the Murray buttes, topographic landmarks of a relatively sand-free region that will allow Curiosity to finally cross the Bagnold dune field. In the last 50-plus sols, Curiosity has covered several hundred meters of flat Murray mudstone that separates the Naukluft plateau from the buttes. The rover is now poised to enter the buttes themselves, and the views are, as expected, spectacular. Enjoy this recent 360-degree view, which you can also check out at Roundme.
Before entering the buttes, Curiosity paused for a very quick drill campaign at a site called Marimba, the rover's thirteenth site, drilling there on sol 1422 (August 6, 2016, the rover's fourth Earth anniversary on Mars). The tailings are among the reddest of the drill sites, but not nearly as red as Confidence Hills.
There have been occasional minor hiccups in the last two months, and two major ones. The rover entered safe mode on July 2 for the first time since 2013, and recovered on July 9. Here is the explanation from JPL:
The most likely cause of entry into safe mode has been determined to be a software mismatch in one mode of how image data are transferred on board. Science activity planning for the rover is avoiding use of that mode, which involves writing images from some cameras' memories into files on the rover's main computer. Alternate means are available for handling and transmitting all image data.
The other problem occurred after drilling at Marimba, on sol 1422. There was a short in the drill percussion mechanism during the attempt to transfer the powdered sample from the chamber above the drill bit to the CHIMRA sample handling mechanism. It was similar to a short that happened at Telegraph Peak on sol 911. The mission was able to complete the sample transfer and finish work at Marimba without using the drill percussion mechanism, but will be studying the drill short issue in the coming weeks.
Here's a 3D route map of the rover's recent travels. The path is trending in among the buttes, which marks a change in plan from the one proposed for the rover's first mission extension in 2014. Project scientist Ashwin Vasavada confirmed to me today that they do plan to actually drive in among the buttes (traveling to the west of the one immediately south of their current position), which means the views are only going to get better.
A few other notes regarding the last two months of Curiosity activities:
On sol 1405 they drove up to a cool-looking site called "Bimbe," which had attracted their attention because it looked dark and blocky from orbit. Here's what Bimbe looked like up close:
They stayed at Bimbe for five sols of work, driving away on sol 1410. There are several different types of rock among the blocks, but most striking to me is the conglomerate. I don't remember seeing a conglomerate like this rock for a while, not since Bungle Bungle way back on sol 550. If you look at a closeup from MAHLI, you can see that the individual rock bits in the outcrop appear to be very angular and of a wide variety of sizes, which, in turn, suggests that they didn't travel very far from their origin before being deposited. In fact, they're so angular that I might call this a breccia rather than a conglomerate. I'm curious to read what the science team thinks about this outcrop.
The mission has been making regular use of the AEGIS software to automate the targeting of ChemCam imaging and laser observations after drives. AEGIS inspects post-drive Navcam images and attempts to identify targets that look like the Murray rock unit, allowing ChemCam to systematically survey rock elemental composition without needing input from ground controllers. The autonomous targeting is particularly useful during long driving campaigns like the one Curiosity has been doing recently. There are only a few short hours in the rover's day between the time it receives its uplinked command sequence (around 10 am, local Mars time) and the time it has to uplink any post-drive data necessary for planning the next sol of activity (around 3 or 4 pm). Whenever scientists use that precious time for targeted observations, it trades directly against time spent driving, making the road trip take longer. If the science team can satisfy their interest in surveying the compositions of the rocks along the drive using automated target selection performed after the afternoon uplinks, it takes zero time away from drives.
Curiosity arrived at the Marimba drilling target on sol 1417. There followed a very quick drilling campaign, despite two setbacks. They dumped the Oudam sample on sol 1418, and performed pre-drill inspection of the site. On sol 1419, they cleaned out CHIMRA, using the opportunity to inspect the fine sieve buried inside it, and did some work on the dumped Oudam sample. They also squeezed in some 3D Mastcam imaging, including this view of a funny pyramid-shaped rock perched on the edge of a cross-bedded outcrop.
They attempted a full-depth drill hole on sol 1420, but the drilling stopped prematurely. Ashwin explained to me that drilling begins with a cautious shallow drill (targeting about 4.5 millimeters depth) with a lighter percussion setting to start the hole -- much like you tap a nail gently with a hammer to start it and set the hole location precisely -- and that this initial start hole effort timed out just seconds before it would've hit the full targeted depth. There are many reasons why this timeout may have happened (ranging from a rock that's harder than previous rocks, to a wide variety of scenarios involving the particular positions of elements of the arm and drill), but none of the scenarios presented any threat to the rover, so they allowed Curiosity to make a second full-drill attempt on sol 1422, using a little bit more percussion to start the hole this time, and the drilling worked fine. In the sol in between the two drill attempts, they captured the glorious 360-degree panorama I put at the top of this post.
The short in the drill percussion mechanism on sol 1422 halted arm activity briefly, but they were able to do standard post-drill remote sensing on sols 1423 and 1424. On sol 1425, they managed to transfer drilled sample into CHIMRA by using only CHIMRA's vibration mechanism rather than the drill percussion mechanism to get the powder moving from the drill into CHIMRA, confirming that the transfer worked with a photo of the precious sample inside the scoop. They performed initial CheMin analysis on sol 1425, dumped the pre-sieve sample on sol 1426, did APXS analysis of the tailings that night, and drove away on sol 1427. It was all very efficient -- only 11 sols of work, despite the two hiccups with drilling. They're going to continue CheMin analysis of the same sample on sol 1428; no word yet on whether SAM is interested in examining Marimba. There was no MAHLI self-portrait at this drill site, but the 360-degree Mastcam panorama documents the site well, and right now it's important to make as much distance as possible, to maximize mission science.
That's it for this update -- expect another one after Curiosity has driven another 500 meters or so to the south, and drilled at another spot in the Murray formation! For full detail on Curiosity's daily activities, below are all the USGS Astrogeology blog posts from the period covered in this entry.
Sols 1373-1374 update by Ken Herkenhoff: No touch, just go! (15 June 2016)
The 32-meter Sol 1371 drive completed exactly as planned, giving the rover a good view of the path toward the south. So another ~30-meter drive is planned for Sol 1373, after some remote science observations. We had the option of using the DRT and taking MAHLI images of the brush spot before the drive, but the science team decided to acquire more remote science observations rather than brushing the Stimson Formation bedrock reachable by the arm. Mastcam will image the path ahead through all spectral filters, then ChemCam and the Right Mastcam will observe Stimson bedrock targets "Sesfontein" and "Swartbooisdrif." The Right Mastcam will image the ChemCam target that was autonomously selected by the AEGIS software on Sol 1371, and a Left Mastcam mosaic of a fracture zone west of the rover is planned. On Sol 1374, AEGIS will be used to autonomously acquire another ChemCam observation and the Left Mastcam will take a 3x2 mosaic of the same area.
Sols 1375-1377 update by Ken Herkenhoff: Another busy weekend (17 June 2016)
The Sol 1373 drive completed successfully, moving the rover over 31 meters toward the south. There's lots of bedrock exposed around the vehicle, but no flat patches large enough to brush in the arm workspace. So MAHLI will take images of an unbrushed target called "Andara" before the APXS is placed on it for an overnight integration. Before these arm activities on Sol 1375, ChemCam and the Right Mastcam will observe Andara and other bedrock targets "Okoloti," "Kalkfeld," and "Khorixas." Mastcam will then acquire a stereo mosaic of a nice outcrop toward the southwest dubbed "Baynes Mountains" and a left-eye mosaic of another outcrop northwest of the rover. The CheMin team requested another portion of the Oudam drill sample, which will be delivered late that afternoon. After dark, MAHLI will image the CheMin inlet using its LEDs for illumination.
Late in the morning of Sol 1376, APXS will integrate again on Andara to compare the quality of data acquired at different temperatures. Then the arm will be stowed for a long (about 55 meters) drive, which will be followed by the usual post-drive imaging and another ChemCam AEGIS (autonomously-targeted) observation.
On Sol 1377, the Left Mastcam will acquire a mosaic of the rover deck, to serve as a baseline for comparison with future images taken after passing the sand dunes along the path ahead. Sand blown across the rover might remove some of the dust on the rover deck. Finally, CheMin will analyze the new Oudam sample portion overnight. It should be another busy weekend for MSL!
Sol 1378-1379 update by Ryan Anderson: Making up for lost distance (21 June 2016)
Over the weekend, the rover stopped after about 17 meters of the planned 65 meter drive. The rover is fine, the drive just tripped one of the (very conservative) limits on how the rover’s suspension was expected to behave, causing Curiosity to stop and check in with Earth. Since there is nothing jumping out at us as a contact science target where we stopped, in today’s plan we will try to make up for some of the lost distance from the weekend plan.
In the Sol 1378 plan, ChemCam has observations of some bedrock at the target “Tombua” and a rock named “Ai Ais”. Mastcam then will image the two ChemCam targets, as well as the Sol 1376 AEGIS target. Mastcam will also image some veins at a location called “Helgas”. After that, we will drive and collect some typical post-drive imaging.
On Sol 1379, we won’t have data down from Sol 1378 yet, so it is an untargeted plan. In the morning, ChemCam, NavCam, and Mastcam have some atmospheric observations. Then in the afternoon, ChemCam has some calibration observations, followed by a few more Mastcam atmospheric observations.
Sols 1380-1381 update by Lauren Edgar: Contact Science at “Koes” (22 June 2016)
The drive on Sol 1378 went well, and Curiosity drove ~44 m to the south, bringing our total drive distance to more than 13.2 km. We’re currently making our way through a gap in the Bagnold dunes (part of a dune is visible in the upper left of the drive direction Navcam frame, above).
Today’s two-sol plan includes targeted remote sensing, and contact science at a target named “Koes.” We’ve been searching for a good place to do contact science on the Murray formation around here, and there won’t be enough power or time to fit contact science in the weekend plan, so it’s great to pick it up here. The plan starts with ChemCam and Mastcam observations of “Koes” and “Onawa” to characterize the Murray formation. Then we’ll use the DRT to brush off a fresh surface at “Koes,” followed by MAHLI imaging. We’ll also use MAHLI to image the rover wheels, as part of our ongoing monitoring. Then we’ll place APXS for an overnight integration on “Koes.” We’ll also carry out a SAM preconditioning activity, which heats up a sample cup in preparation for solid sample analysis. Curiosity will wake up early the next morning to acquire a Mastcam mosaic of “Baynes Mountain” to document the contact between the Murray and Stimson formations. On Sol 1381, we’ll acquire another ChemCam observation of the Murray formation at “Khoabendus,” and we’ll use Mastcam to characterize veins at the target “Helgas.” Then Navcam will be used to monitor the atmosphere and search for dust devils.
Sol 1382-1383 update by Ryan Anderson: Phobos Transit and Soliday (27 June 2016)
Contact science in the Sol 1380-1381 plan went well, so we're back to driving in the weekend plan!
Sol 1382 will start with a Mastcam video of Phobos crossing in front of the sun, plus a multispectral observation of the brushed target “Koes”. ChemCam will then analyze the targets “Koes,” “Kongola,” and “Rundu” and Mastcam will document those observations. After that, we will drop off some of the “Oudam” sample to SAM for analysis.
On Sol 1383 the rover will drive and then collect the usual post-drive images, including an 8x1 mosaic along the side of the rover to study changing textures as we drive. We’ll also take some extra Navcam images of a crater in the distance. Later in the day, Mastcam has a couple of atmospheric observations and ChemCam has an auto-targeted observation.
The weekend plan is only two sols since Sunday is a “soliday” allowing Earth and Mars schedules to get back in sync. But the plan does include an early morning science block for Sol 1384 to collect some atmospheric observations with Navcam and Mastcam.
Sol 1385 update by Ryan Anderson: Drive then drive some more (28 June 2016)
Not a lot to report today: these one-sol drive plans are pretty simple! (Well, as simple as driving a giant robot on another planet can be…) Yesterday’s drive took us a little over 60m and we’re planning another drive in the sol 1385 plan. Before the drive, we have a short science block with a ChemCam observation of the target “Epembe” and a Mastcam mosaic of “Baynes Mountain” to fill a gap in the 360 mosaic from yesterday. After that, we’ll drive for about 70 meters and collect post-drive imaging. We’ll also use AEGIS to do a ChemCam observation after the drive and use MAHLI to look at the ground under our wheels.
Sol 1386 update by Ryan Anderson: Studying Trekkopje, checking the wheels (29 June 2016)
Our drive in the Sol 1385 plan took us 66 meters, continuing our path south between the “Baynes Mountains” and “Helgas Dune". The plan for Sol 1386 starts off with APXS and MAHLI observations of the target “Trekkopje”, followed by a short science block. Mastcam will start off the block with some atmospheric measurements, then ChemCam will join in the fun and analyze Trekkopje too. Mastcam will document that observation and the AEGIS observation from Sol 1385, followed by a couple of small mosaics studying the rim of a nearby crater. Instead of driving, we will use MAHLI to do a check-up on our wheels in today’s plan.
Sol 1387-1388 update by Ryan Anderson: Limited Targeting Data (30 June 2016)
In the lead up to the long 4th of July weekend, we are planning two sols today and three sols tomorrow. We only had a couple of Navcam images on the ground this morning to help us choose targets, but we still managed to find two targets for ChemCam to analyze on Sol 1387: a rock named “Noordoewer” and a soil named “Savates”. Mastcam will document those targets and take a nice mosaic of the “Murray Buttes”. After that, we have a short drive, followed by post drive imaging. I dialed in to planning this morning and requested some Navcam of Mt. Sharp along with the post drive imaging to help target more long distance ChemCam RMI images. On Sol 1388, we have an easy day: ChemCam has a calibration observation and Navcam has a couple of atmospheric monitoring observations.
Sol 1389-1391 update by Ryan Anderson: Holiday Weekend, Good Luck Juno! (1 July 2016)
Today we put together a three sol plan to take us through the holiday weekend. On Sol 1389 we do contact science with APXS and MAHLI on the target “Outjo”. SAM also will begin an analysis of some of the “Mojave2” sample that was collected a while ago.
Sol 1390 starts off with a long science block. This was originally split into two blocks, but during planning we decided it would save some time to combine them. Mastcam starts the block off with a multispectral observation of the brushed target “Outjo”. Then ChemCam has a long distance RMI observation of Mt. Sharp, plus analyses of the targets “Outjo” and “Luanda”. After ChemCam, Mastcam turns back on, and has mosaics of “Bukalo” and “Bailundo” (blocky deposits), “Keetmanshoop” (an outcrop of Murray formation), and “Quimavongo” (a small crater). SAM will also continue its sample analysis.
On Sol 1391 we will drive for about 60 m and then collect post-drive imaging. And then in the early morning on Sol 1392, Navcam and Mastcam have a series of atmospheric observations.
While Curiosity is busy with all of that, and we are all celebrating the 4th of July, the Juno spacecraft will be arriving at Jupiter this weekend! Juno has been flying toward Jupiter for five years, so it’s exciting that it will finally be reaching its destination! Good luck Juno!
Curiosity Update by Ken Herkenhoff: Safe Mode (6 July 2016)
The activities planned for Sols 1387 and 1388 completed successfully, and lots of good data were returned including a stunning Right Mastcam panorama of the "Murray Buttes" toward the southwest. One of the images in this panorama shows a boulder that appears to be precariously balanced. No, we don't plan to drive right up next to it, but we'll probably get closer looks as the rover proceeds toward Mount Sharp.
Early on Sol 1389, the rover entered "safe mode", apparently due to a software problem that is still not fully understood. So the 3-sol plan did not execute but the rover and all subsystems are healthy. Science planning has been suspended while critical engineering data are returned to Earth and studied by software experts at JPL. I'm SOWG Chair again today, with not much to do because of the anomaly, but I'm anxiously following the tactical team's progress in recovering from safe mode.
Sol 1398 update by Lauren Edgar: Back in action (11 July 2016)
After standing down from science operations for a few sols to resolve the safe mode anomaly, it’s great to be on the move again today. The Sol 1398 plan begins with a short science block, which includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the target “Luanda” to assess the chemistry of the local bedrock. We’ll also acquire several Mastcam mosaics to characterize some blocky deposits and stratification within the Murray formation. Then Curiosity will drive for ~76 m and acquire post-drive imaging for targeting. In the afternoon there is another short science block, which includes Navcam and Mastcam observations to monitor the atmosphere. Overnight, Curiosity will do the final CheMin analysis of the Oudam drill sample. The plan also includes some additional flight software diagnostics, but it’s great to be back on the road and stretching our legs (rover wheels?) again. For more information on the anomaly and return to operations, check out this recent press release.
Sol 1399 update by Lauren Edgar: On the road again (12 July 2016)
We’re back in our familiar drive pattern, with a short science block followed by a drive. In today’s pre-drive science block, ChemCam and Mastcam will be used to study the target “Arandis” to document the chemistry of the local bedrock. Then we’ll acquire several Mastcam mosaics to study some blocky deposits and document laminations in the Murray formation. A drive of ~45 m is planned, followed by post-drive imaging for targeting. Curiosity will wake up early the next morning for some environmental monitoring and searching for dust devils. We were pretty tight on data volume today so we had to trim down the plan a little bit, but that’s why we prioritize our activities so carefully.
Sol 1400 update by Lauren Edgar: Approaching the “Bimbe” blocky deposit (13 July 2016)
On Sol 1399, Curiosity drove ~32 m closer to a blocky deposit known as “Bimbe.” We’ve identified several notable blocky deposits in orbital images, and this will be our last chance to fully investigate one of these deposits on the ground to try to determine their origin. Today’s plan starts with some Mastcam mosaics to characterize laminations in the Murray bedrock, and to document the “Bimbe” region. We’ll also study “Bimbe” with ChemCam at a target named “Auchab.” Additionally, the morning science block includes some systematic atmospheric monitoring with Mastcam. Today’s drive will hopefully put us about ~20 m closer to the “Bimbe” deposit, and will be followed by post-drive imaging for targeting. The plan also includes an autonomously-selected ChemCam target. We’re in late slide sols this week, so it’s been nice getting to start a few hours later in the day… though I’m sure our team members in other parts of the world are ready for sleep!
Sol 1401 update by Lauren Edgar: Analysis of blocky deposits (14 July 2016)
The drive on Sol 1400 went well, and Curiosity drove ~13 m along the edge of the blocky deposit “Bimbe.” Today’s plan involves a number of ChemCam and Mastcam observations to assess the composition and textural properties of three large blocks in the deposit. We’ll also acquire a Mastcam mosaic to document the eastern edge of the deposit, and a Navcam observation to search for dust devils. Then Curiosity will continue driving to the southwest, followed by standard post-drive imaging. I’ll be on duty as GSTL tomorrow so I’m looking forward to the weekend plan!
Sols 1402-1404 update by Lauren Edgar: A juicy weekend plan (15 July 2016)
It was a slow morning as we anxiously awaited our downlink at 11am this morning… and then we put together a hefty weekend plan. We’re in late slide sols this week, so planning has been starting later to wait for critical images to come down. I’m on duty as GSTL today, and we knew it would be a big plan going in to the weekend. Once we confirmed that the ~26 m drive went well on Sol 1401, our first task was to evaluate the local bedrock and select a target for contact science. We selected a target named “Uku” for ChemCam, Mastcam, MAHLI and APXS activities to assess the texture and composition of the Murray formation. We also planned a ChemCam observation on the target “Songo,” a disturbed block which looks more red than some of the surrounding rocks. The plan also includes some Mastcam mosaics of the “Bimbe” blocky deposit to see if we want to pursue some additional observations there next week. Then we had to see if these activities would fit with an already full weekend plan. On the first and third sols we’re planning to do some environmental monitoring observations coordinated with observations from the MAVEN spacecraft. This will give us a great dataset from the ground looking up, and from orbit looking down. As if the plan wasn’t busy enough, we’re also planning some MAHLI imaging of the CheMin inlet, and a SAM geochronology experiment. Not surprisingly, this is a very power-hungry plan, so we had to trim down some activities during the SOWG meeting. But we managed to get almost everything into the plan, and have set ourselves up for the possibility of more contact science on Monday. Should be a fun weekend in Gale crater!
Sol 1405-1408 update by Ryan Anderson: Bimbe Conglomerates (20 July 2016)
After a busy weekend plan, we are back to “restricted” sols this week, planning two days at a time. Monday’s planning for sols 1405-1406 started off with a discussion of whether we wanted to do some brief contact science before driving, or just drive straight for the block deposit called “Bimbe”.
In the end, we decided to keep the contact science in the plan, so sol 1405 included some MAHLI imaging of the target “Guri”. Mastcam had a multispectral observation of Guri as well as “Galo” to look for evidence of hematite. Mastcam also had an observation of an outcrop of possible conglomerate rock. ChemCam had measurements of the bedrock targets “Cela” and “Dala”.
After that we drove toward Bimbe. On sol 1406, we had a Navcam atmospheric observation and a ChemCam AEGIS target. I also advocated for a long-distance RMI mosaic on sol 1406 to make up for the one that was lost when the rover went into safe mode, but the orientation of the rover after the drive made it difficult so it ended up being pulled. (It would have caused ChemCam to slew past the path of the sun in the sky while focused, and we like to avoid any risk of pointing the telescope at the sun). So I’ll have to advocate for that observation some other time.
The sol 1406 drive went perfectly, so this morning we found ourselves in an awesome place to study the blocks and conglomerates at “Bimbe”. Sol 1407 starts with ChemCam observations of the targets “Lucala”, “Cabamba”, and “Bungo”, followed by a Mastcam stereo mosaic of the Bimbe rocks. MAHLI then has several observations of the workspace and a closer look at the target “Sonneblom”, and APXS has an overnight observation of Sonneblom.
On Sol 1408, we have a morning block of atmospheric observations from NavCam and Mastcam, followed by a Mastcam multispectral observation of the target “Tumba” and stereo mosaics of the southern part of Bimbe as well as some rocks in an area called “Balombo”. ChemCam will also observe Sonneblom and Balombo.
Sols 1409-1411 update by Ryan Anderson: Finishing up at Bimbe (22 July 2016)
For the weekend plan, we have a bunch more observations of the interesting blocky deposit “Bimbe”. Sol 1409 starts off with a couple of Mastcam images: one of the target “Seeis” and another of the AEGIS target from Sol 1406. Mastcam also has a mosaic to provide more context for the Bimbe blocks. After that, ChemCam has observations of the targets “Seeheim”, “Wilhelmstal”, “Oranjemund”, and “Seeis”. MAHLI then will observe several Bimbe targets, and APXS will analyze two targets: “Funda” and “Zambezi”.
On Sol 1410, ChemCam has an observation of the target “Mariental” with support from Mastcam. After that, we drive and do the usual post-drive imaging. On Sol 1411, Mastcam has an observation of the rover deck to watch for dust and sand that end up on top of the rover. Originally the plan also had the RMI mosaic that I’ve been trying to acquire as well, but it had to be pulled from the plan yet again to save on data volume. I am starting to think this observation is cursed! I’ll have to try again next week.
Sols 1412-1413 update by Ken Herkenhoff: No touch, just Go! (25 July 2016)
MSL is making good progress, driving almost 68 meters last weekend. We had the option of taking some MAHLI images on Sol 1412, but decided to maximize the drive distance instead. Before the drive, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe bedrock targets "Jamba" and "Huambo" and the Right Mastcam will acquire a 3-image mosaic of a small depression called "Mungo." After acquiring the post-drive imaging needed to plan future mobility, ChemCam will use AEGIS to autonomously select a new target for a LIBS raster. Early the next morning, Navcam will search for clouds and dust devils, and Mastcam will measure the dustiness of the atmosphere. The dust measurements will be repeated at noon and mid-afternoon to look for changes during the day. The Right Mastcam will also acquire a 14-image mosaic of the Murray Buttes early in the morning, and we finally were able to plan the long-distance RMI mosaic! The tactical team did a great job of planning today, so it has been a relatively easy day for me as SOWG Chair.
Sols 1414-1416 update by Ken Herkenhoff: Keep on truckin' (27 July 2016)
MSL drove over 45 meters on Sol 1412, to a location with lots of bedrock exposed but most of it is coated by dust. So again we decided not to deploy the arm and acquire lots of ChemCam data instead. LIBS observations of targets named "Okahandja," "Swakopmund," and "Walvis Bay" will be followed by another long-distance RMI mosaic. Then the Right Mastcam will image the ChemCam targets and acquire a 5-image mosaic of the Murray Buttes. The Left Mastcam will take a 7-image mosaic of the bedrock in front of the rover before the Sol 1414 drive. After the drive, lots of images are planned to enable selection of contact science targets for Sol 1416 on Friday, and another ChemCam target will be autonomously selected and LIBS data acquired using AEGIS. On Sol 1415, Navcam will again search for clouds and Mastcam will measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere. I'm MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead today, and with only a MARDI post-drive twilight image in the plan, it's been an easy day so far. But of course it's exciting and fun to be involved in tactical operations!
Sols 1416-1417 update by Ken Herkenhoff: Approaching the next drill target (29 July 2016)
MSL drove another 44 meters on Sol 1414, into an area with larger blocks of bedrock. This looks like a good area to drill into the Murray Formation, so nearby targets were selected and we are planning a short drive to position the vehicle for drilling. But first, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe bedrock targets "Chibia" and "Dondo." Mastcam will also measure the dust in the atmosphere and take an image of the Sol 1414 ChemCam AEGIS target. Then the arm will be deployed for lots of contact science and standard images of the wheels. MAHLI will take pictures of Chibia before the DRT is used to brush it off, then take lots of stereo images of the brushed spot. MAHLI will also acquire a full suite of images of Dondo before the APXS measures its elemental chemistry. After sunset, the APXS will be placed on Chibia for an overnight integration. Early on Sol 1417, Navcam will search for clouds and dust devils, Mastcam will again measure atmospheric dust, and ChemCam will measure atmospheric chemistry. The bump to the potential drill targets will be followed by acquisition of imaging and other data needed to plan the drill campaign and other activities next week. Finally, AEGIS will be used for the first time to autonomously select two targets and acquire ChemCam data on both of them. This is a very full and complex plan, so I (as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead) and the rest of the team were very busy today!
Sol 1418 update by Ryan Anderson: Preparing to drill Marimba (1 August 2016)
Today’s plan was all about setting up for our next drill hole. Originally there was going to be no science block at all, but we ended up with a little bit more power than expected, so we managed to fit in a ChemCam observation of the expected drill target, called “Marimba” along with Mastcam documentation. Once that was done, the rover dumped its sieved sample from our previous drill at “Oudam” and did some contact science on Marimba. This included MAHLI and APXS of the drill location before and after brushing the dust off, Mastcam inspection of various rover components, and the “pre-load” test where we make sure the rock can handle the pressure exerted by the drill. If all of that goes well, we should be able to drill later this week!
Sol 1419 update by Ken Herkenhoff: Cleaning CHIMRA (2 August 2016)
The drilling campaign on Marimba continues, dominating the Sol 1419 plan. Again, the tactical operations team was able to squeeze some additional science activities into the plan: ChemCam and Mastcam will observe a laminated bedrock exposure called "Namibe," and the Right Mastcam will image the two targets autonomously observed by ChemCam on Sol 1417. Then the arm work resumes, with a brief interruption for a Mastcam stereo mosaic of Murray Buttes in the afternoon. After CHIMRA is cleaned and inspected by the cameras, MAHLI will image the last of the previous drill sample and APXS placed on the dump pile for an overnight integration. I'll be MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead tomorrow, so I dialed in to tactical operations meetings today to keep up to date.
Sol 1420 update by Ken Herkenhoff: Drilling Marimba (3 August 2016)
The Sol 1419 activities completed successfully, including cleaning the remaining Oudam sample out of CHIMRA. So the focus of the Sol 1420 plan is drilling into the Marimba bedrock target. But first, MAHLI will image the "noseprint" of the APXS contact sensor in the Oudam dump pile and the drill target from various distances. After the drilling has completed, the drill bit and the new drill hole will be imaged by many of the MSL cameras. And once again, we were able to fit some additional Mastcam observations into the plan: Measurements of dust in the atmosphere, a stereo mosaic extending coverage of the arm workspace, images of targets "Cota 1" and "Cota 2" to serve as a baseline for detecting changes in sand deposits this weekend, and two stereo pairs to improve coverage of one of the Murray Buttes. The MAHLI activities were all part of the drill campaign that was planned in advance, so it was an easy day for me as uplink lead.
Sol 1421 update by Lauren Edgar: Determining drill activities at Marimba (5 August 2016)
On Sol 1420 we planned a full drill hole on the target “Marimba” to characterize the composition of the Murray mudstone in this location. However, we came in early this morning to find that the drill hole didn’t penetrate very far into this rock target, as seen in the above MAHLI image. We’re trying to evaluate why this drill hole is different, and what prevented the drill from completing as planned. The rover is healthy and all other activities completed successfully, so this might just be a harder rock target than we’ve seen before.
I was the GSTL today, and it was a complicated morning as we worked through several options for today’s plan. We decided to stick to remote sensing today while we continue to evaluate the drill activity and options moving forward. The GEO group decided to take advantage of the shallow drill hole as a way to assess variations in chemistry with depth. So we planned some Mastcam multispectral and ChemCam passive observations of the drill tailings, as well as a ChemCam LIBS observation across the drill hole. The plan also includes a ChemCam observation of “Cabinda” to assess an alternative drill site, as well as the target “Epukiro” to investigate an interesting vein. We’ll also use Mastcam and ChemCam to assess the post-sieve dump piles from the previous drill target “Oudam,” which we dumped on a nearby rock slab. Then Curiosity will use Mastcam and Navcam to monitor the atmosphere and search for dust devils. In the afternoon, we’ll acquire a 360-degree Mastcam mosaic to provide geologic context for this drill site. I’ll be on duty again tomorrow, hoping to pick back up with drilling activities!
Sols 1422-1424 update by Lauren Edgar: It’s my party and I’ll drill if I want to… (5 August 2016)
Happy birthday Curiosity! As we celebrate four Earth years of operations on Mars, Curiosity will be busy collecting another drill sample. In honor of her birthday, check out all of the great science that we’ve accomplished in the last year in this video.
Curiosity’s birthday party on Mars kicks off with another attempt to drill the “Marimba” mudstone target. While this target might be harder than previous rocks that we’ve drilled, we’re optimistic that the drill will complete successfully. I was the GSTL again today, and it was a fairly straightforward planning day. The first sol is focused on drilling and imaging the drill hole and tailings. On the second sol we’ll acquire ChemCam RMI images of the drill hole so we can target it with ChemCam LIBS on Monday. We’re also planning a Mastcam stereo image of the location that we’ll dump the pre-sieved material. In the afternoon we’ll transfer the drill sample, sieve it, and drop off a portion to CheMin. Then we’ll let CheMin analyze it overnight. On the third sol we have a science block devoted to Mastcam multispectral imaging of the drill hole and tailings, along with a ChemCam automated targeting test, and Navcam atmospheric monitoring. Later in the day we’ll acquire a few Mastcam images as part of a change detection activity.
Sounds like a fun-filled weekend for our four-year-old rover. Happy birthday Curiosity. Have your mudstone and eat it too.
Sol 1425 update by Ken Herkenhoff: Trying again to deliver drill sample to CheMin (8 August 2016)
The second attempt to drill into Marimba went well, but the new drill sample was not transferred to CHIMRA due to a recurrence of the electrical short in the percussion mechanism. Therefore, the sample was not delivered to CheMin as planned. So we tried again on Sol 1425, this time without percussion (using only more gentle vibration). This made for a rather busy day for me as SOWG Chair, but once the engineering team decided that it was safe to proceed, planning went very smoothly. We were able to add some remote science observations before the sample transfer and dropoff to CheMin: Mastcam will take images of the drill tailings through all filters, ChemCam will acquire passive spectra of the new drill tailings and the sieved Oudam sample pile, and a LIBS observation of the drill hole wall. CheMin will analyze the Marimba drill sample overnight, then Mastcam will measure the dust in the atmosphere early on the morning of Sol 1426.
Sol 1426 update by Lauren Edgar: CheMin data readout and contact science at Marimba (9 August 2016)
Today’s plan is focused on retrieving CheMin data from the overnight analysis of the Marimba drill sample and MAHLI and APXS observations of the drill hole and cuttings. The plan starts with a short science block for atmospheric monitoring, followed by CheMin data readout. Then we’ll do a short Mastcam change detection activity before dumping the pre-sieved drill sample. After we dump the sample, we’ll acquire Mastcam, Navcam and MAHLI images to document the pile. In the afternoon, we’ll repeat the atmospheric monitoring and change detection activities. Overnight, Curiosity will stay active, starting with MAHLI nighttime imaging of the drill hole to better control illumination conditions, followed by MAHLI imaging of the CheMin inlet, and finally, an overnight APXS integration on the full drill tailings. This drill site has been challenging, but we’re back on track and ready to drive away soon!
Sol 1427 update by Lauren Edgar: Driving away (10 August 2016)
After successfully completing the drilling activities at Marimba, it’s time to get back on the road. Today’s plan is focused on targeted remote sensing and driving. The plan starts with a Navcam movie to monitor the atmosphere, followed by Mastcam documentation of several autonomously selected ChemCam targets. Then we’ll acquire a couple of ChemCam observations and Mastcam multispectral imaging of the Marimba pre-sieve dump pile before driving away. After a short drive we’ll acquire images for context and targeting. Overnight, Curiosity will complete a SAM electrical baseline test to monitor instrument health. Based on some of the recent Mastcam images that we’ve acquired (as seen above), the view ahead should be quite scenic as we drive through the Murray Buttes!
Sol 1428 update by Lauren Edgar: Downlink limited (11 August 2016)
MSL drove 11 meters on Sol 1427, and a longer drive is planned for Sol 1428. I helped select ChemCam targets today; the number of possible science observations was constrained by the time available before the drive, so only one LIBS measurement is planned, on a bedrock target southeast of the rover named "Xangongo." Mastcam will image this target as well, and measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere. The amount of data we expect to receive in time for planning tomorrow is more limited than usual, so we are unlikely to receive enough post-drive data to plan both contact science and a drive this weekend. The tactical team decided that driving has higher priority, so critical post-drive imaging is focused on supporting mobility planning. Overnight, CheMin will perform another analysis of the Marimba drill sample, to improve the quality of mineralogical data.