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Emily LakdawallaOctober 4, 2012

Curiosity Update, sol 57: Digging in at Rocknest

JPL held a press briefing today to fill the public in on what the rover's been up to in the last week, and what to look forward to over the next couple of weeks. Curiosity is wrapping up sol 58, but hasn't returned that data to earth yet, so this blog covers events through sol 57. Just minutes after I first posted this, images from sol 58 started arriving on Earth.

Curiosity is now parked near the sand drift I showed at the end of my last update. The drift has a name: "Rocknest."

NASA / JPL / Damia Bouic

"Rocknest," Curiosity sol 55
This sand drift, named Rocknest, became the target for Curiosity's first soil sampling. After taking this panorama on sol 55, Curiosity drove slightly to the right and then took a sharp left turn to prepare to position a front wheel on top of the nearest sand drift. Click through for the sol 56 view.

On the briefing today, mission manager Mike Watkins said that the engineers had requested that Curiosity be driven to a "nice sandbox" to play in for the first soil sample, and it appears that Rocknest satisfies that requirement. Here are the broad outlines of what to expect during the next couple of weeks of activity:

Curiosity's bootprint on

NASA / JPL / Emily Lakdawalla

Curiosity's bootprint on "Rocknest," sols 56-57
On sol 55, Curiosity rolled up to a sand drift called "Rocknest." On sol 56, the rover rolled its right front wheel onto the drift's peak, locked the other five wheels, then "scuffed" the drift by rotating the right from wheel 30 degrees. Then it backed up and surveyed the result.
Curiosity applying the arm at Rocknest, sol 58

NASA / JPL / Emily Lakdawalla

Curiosity applying the arm at Rocknest, sol 58
In this animation Curiosity positions the robotic arm turret over undisturbed and then scuffed parts of the sand drift at Rocknest to photograph it with the Mars Hand Lens Imager.
MAHLI images of Rocknest, Curiosity sols 56 and 58


MAHLI images of Rocknest, Curiosity sols 56 and 58
Curiosity took these photos of a sand drift called "Rocknest" with its MAHLI microscopic imager on sols 56 and 58. The top row are two images taken of the drift from two distances on sol 56. The bottom row shows, on the left, the armored surface of the wind drift, and on the right, the interior of the drift after being scuffed by Curiosity's wheel.

There is a lot of work to be done, but it's work that'll be done while Curiosity is mostly parked. I asked if there were plans to take a big image mosaic from Rocknest, and the answer was yes. Hooray! There are also three videos planned -- three of the shaking of the three scooped soil samples, and two of sample deliveries.

Read more: pretty pictures, data art (was amateur image processing), mission status, Mars, Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory), animation

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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