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25 November 2015

Sols 1177-1179: Recipe for a successful rover plan

The 28 m drive on Sol 1174 ran successfully and Curiosity is now parked in front of a beautiful sand sheet and sand dune! Today science and engineering teams cooked up a full 3-sol plan, to account for the second half of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  The team started with equal parts Mastcam and ChemCam to analyze the sand and bedrock, and to monitor the movement of sand across the …


24 November 2015

Sols 1174-1176: A feast of activities

As many Americans are making plans for Thanksgiving, we’re making sure that Curiosity has plenty to do over the holiday weekend.  On Sol 1173, Curiosity drove 45 m to the south, which put us in a great position in front of a small sandsheet and the stoss side of a large dune. Today we’re planning 3 sols to cover part of the long weekend (we’ll plan an additional 3 sols …


23 November 2015

Sol 1173: Dune monitoring

Over the weekend, Curiosity drove 51 m closer to the Bagnold Dunes.  I’m on duty as the Geology Science Theme Lead, and today we’re planning Sol 1173, which includes a short science block, a drive, post-drive imaging, and some untargeted science in the afternoon.  The main focus of today’s plan is to monitor the dunes and document the bedrock along the way.  We’ll start with several Mastcam observations to monitor …


21 November 2015

Sols 1170-1172: Studying bedrock, sand, and sky

This week Curiosity has been driving towards the Bagnold Dunes and characterizing the bedrock and sand along the way.  After a successful SAM methane experiment and 36.5 m drive on Sol 1168, Curiosity spent Sol 1169 recharging and assessing some of the local bedrock and dunes. The weekend 3-sol plan starts with a number of environmental monitoring activities to assess atmospheric opacity and composition.  The second sol includes several ChemCam …


18 November 2015

Sols 1167-1168: Onward to the Bagnold Dunes

The Bagnold Dunes are tantalizingly close, and this week is mostly focused on driving to the dunes.  On Sol 1167 Curiosity drove 39 m, and the dunes are starting to look pretty big, as seen in the above Navcam image.  For more on our plans when we get to the dunes, check out this recent press release. The plan today looks very similar to yesterday, with a pre-drive science block, a …


16 November 2015

Sol 1165: Uplink Problems

Unfortunately, our plans for the weekend were thwarted by a problem with the Deep Space Network that prevented the plans from being sent to the rover. As someone on the team pointed out in response to the issue, this just goes to show how many steps in the process have to go just right for us to be able to operate a rover on Mars, and it’s pretty impressive that …


14 November 2015

Sols 1164-1165: Brushing “Swartkloofberg”

The rover drove over 38 meters on Sol 1162, as expected.  We are transitioning out of restricted planning, so only 2 sols are being planned for this weekend.  There were so many good ideas for activities this morning that the team had to decide which to remove from the plan to leave enough charge in the rover’s batteries to enable nominal planning on Monday.  Still, the plan is a very …


12 November 2015

Sols 1162-1163: Approaching Bagnold Dunes

Today is a holiday for some of us, but not the MSL tactical operations team!  The 55-meter drive planned for Sol 1160 completed as planned, and another 41-meter drive is planned for Sol 1162.  Before the next drive, Mastcam and ChemCam will observe a small, sandy drift named “Arris” and a bedrock target dubbed “Tsumeb.”  Mastcam will also acquire two mosaics, one of nearby outcrops and one of more distant …


10 November 2015

Sol 1160-1161: Brandberg

The 68-meter drive planned for Sol 1158 completed as planned, placing the rover near a dark, circular feature named “Brandberg.”  The tactical operations team studied the images of Brandberg and discussed the value of contact science observations in this area, ultimately deciding to drive on toward the Bagnold Dunes.  But before leaving, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe targets “Hoba” and “Gibeon” on the Brandberg feature, which appears to be a …


8 November 2015

Sol 1157-1159: A Busy Weekend on Mars

Whew! It’s going to be a busy weekend on Mars! The Sol 1157 plan starts off with an activity to test out AEGIS, a software tool that will help with choosing targets for ChemCam and Mastcam. The AEGIS activity will take ChemCam images of two targets: “Ashley Lakes” and “Amsden”. That is followed by a ChemCam observation of the target “Augusta”. Mastcam will take supporting images of Ashley Lakes and …


6 November 2015

Sol 1155-1156: Limited Downlink

Today’s planning was a bit challenging because we only got a few Navcam images down to show us possible science targets, which limited our choices for ChemCam observations. We are all looking forward to Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) waking up from the intentional “safe mode” status that it has been in this week! Still, even with limited data we were able to put together a good plan. On Sol 1155, …


2 November 2015

Sol 1153-1154: Driving Around

The short drive over the weekend went well, putting us in a good position for a longer drive in today’s plan. Before we drive, ChemCam will analyze the targets “Tampico”, “LaValle”, and “Muddy” to determine if their apparent variations in brightness in the Navcam images correspond to a variation in chemistry. Mastcam will take documentation images of the ChemCam targets, plus a 13×3 mosaic of the resistant outcrop “East Glacier” …


31 October 2015

Sols 1148-1152: Driving and Contact Science

Apologies for the lack of an update on Wednesday this week! Lauren and I were both in a training class, and Ken was traveling so none of us were able to post here. That means that today’s post covers five sols of planning!  The sol 1148 plan started off with a Mastcam observation of the target McLeod and a 10×1 mosaic to patch a gap in the mosaic from sol …


26 October 2015

Sol 1146-1147: A View of Meeteetse

The weekend drive was successful, placing us nicely on an overlook of the “Meeteetse” area. The focus for Sol 1146 is to get some good color stereo images of the whole area, including “Big Sky,” “Greenhorn,” and “Meeteetse”. Mastcam will take a 16×3 mosaic of the Meeteetse area, plus a 12×1 right-eye mosaic of some nearby resistant ridges. It will also measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere by …


23 October 2015

Sols 1143-1145: Last observations at Greenhorn and driving away

After a successful investigation focused on alteration zones around fractures, it’s time to move on.  We’re still chewing on data from the “Greenhorn” and “Big Sky” drill samples, but we can wrap up a few last observations in this area and drive away in today’s 3-sol plan. On the first sol, we’ll acquire MAHLI images on the pre-sieve dump pile and the nearby target “Vandalia,” with overnight APXS on the …


22 October 2015

Sol 1142: Nighttime imaging

The Sol 1141 activities completed as expected, and the rover’s batteries are charged up enough to allow both daytime and nighttime activities in today’s plan.  First, the unsieved part of the Greenhorn drill sample will be dumped onto the ground and Mastcam and MAHLI will take pictures of the resulting pile. Then the left Mastcam will acquire a 9×2 mosaic and ChemCam and Mastcam will observe the target “Maywood” to better characterize the variations in …


21 October 2015

Sol 1141: Recharging batteries

There was a problem processing the latest data from MSL at the Deep Space Network station that received it, but the data are now available and confirm that the Sol 1140 activities completed successfully.  As expected, the batteries need to be recharged after the SAM methane experiment, so Sol 1141 activities are limited to a few remote sensing activities.  ChemCam and Mastcam will observe the Greenhorn drill tailings and another …


20 October 2015

Sol 1140: Zapping the drill hole wall

The ChemCam RMI images of the drill hole planned yesterday were successfully acquired and received, and were used today to plan 2 parallel LIBS rasters down the hole.  The additional LIBS raster should be useful in measuring variations in chemistry among individual sand grains and in detecting thin veins.  ChemCam and Mastcam will also observe a target dubbed “Marshall” to see whether silica enrichment extends along other fractures near the …


18 October 2015

Sols 1136-1138: Drilling at “Greenhorn”

Unfortunately the Sol 1135 bundles were not uplinked due to a DSN issue, so the activities that we planned yesterday never made it onboard.  However, that meant that Curiosity spent the day resting and recharging in time for a lot of great science this weekend. Today’s 3-sol plan will recover most of the activities that were planned for Sol 1135, in addition to the main activity of a full drill …


15 October 2015

Sol 1135: Sniffing the Martian air

The Sol 1134 mini-start hole on “Pilgrim” went well, as seen in the above MAHLI image.  Side note: if that doesn’t look like a hole to you, try rotating the image (the hole is illuminated from the lower left, but the human eye generally prefers to see sunlight coming from the upper half of the image). Due to power restrictions, we’re waiting until the weekend plan to go for the full …