2 September 2016

Sols 1450-1453: Communication challenges

Posted by Ryan

Sol 1447 Mastcam

Sol 1448 Navcam

Curiosity had a nice ~78 m drive on Sol 1448, which set us up for a lot of great science over the long (4-sol) weekend.  Unfortunately a problem with the Deep Space Network caused an entire Odyssey pass to be lost, so we didn’t receive the workspace images that we would have needed to do contact science.  Without those images we didn’t feel safe moving the arm. But the team did a great job putting together a full weekend plan.

The first sol starts with several Navcam observations to search for dust devils and monitor the atmosphere.  Then we’ll acquire a Mastcam mosaic to document the beautiful buttes that we’ve been driving through, followed by ChemCam observations of the targets “Benguela” and “Gabela” to assess the composition of the local bedrock.  Later in the afternoon we’ll take two more Mastcam mosaics of the buttes under better lighting conditions.  Overnight, Curiosity will carry out a SAM methane experiment.  On the second sol we’ll take a 360-degree Mastcam mosaic to document the geology as we drive through the Murray Buttes.  On the third sol we’ll drive, followed by standard post-drive imaging for targeting and context.  After a busy weekend, the fourth sol is devoted entirely to REMS observations.

While the buttes are beautiful, they pose a challenge to communications, because they are partially occluding communications between the rover and the satellites we use to relay data (MRO and ODY), so sometimes the data volume that we can relay is pretty low.  But it’s a small price to pay for the great stratigraphic exposures and gorgeous view!

By Lauren Edgar