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12 July 2016

Sol 1399: Curiosity rover on the road again

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 about 45 meters is planned, followed by post-drive imaging …


6 July 2016

Curiosity Update: Safe Mode

The Curiosity rover 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 …


29 June 2016

Sol 1386: Curiosity rover studying Trekkopje, checking the wheels

Our drive for the Curiosity rover 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 …


21 June 2016

Sol 1378-1379: Making up for lost distance

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.


12 June 2016

Sols 1368-1370: On the road again

We received the engineering data that we needed to proceed with the final science activities at the Oudam drill site.  Today’s plan is focused on analyzing the pre-sieve dump pile and getting on the road again. The three-sol plan starts by moving the arm out of the way so we can target the workspace.  First we’ll acquire a ChemCam passive observation on the pre-sieve dump pile, followed by several ChemCam …


30 May 2016

Sol 1355-1357: Coordinating with MRO

Our drive went well and Curiosity is now sitting on a nice patch of the Murray formation, putting us in a good position for a very busy holiday weekend! On Sol 1355, ChemCam has observations of the targets “Auchas,” “Kaisosi,” “Inamagando,” and “Horingbaai.” Mastcam will document those targets and then do some multispectral observations of the targets “Kunjas” and “Navachab,” plus a mosaic of the contact between the Murray and …


23 May 2016

Sol 1350: Data processing delay

I’m SOWG Chair again today, and started browsing the latest data from MSL early this morning.  To my dismay, the post-drive images that we expected to receive in time for planning today were not available!  It turned out that the data were received on Earth, but the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter operations team had some problems processing and transferring it to us.  We waited as long as we could for the …


Sols 1348-1349: A smoother route

Our drive on Sol 1346 was successful and brought us to a location with a view of the rugged ridges of the area we’ve been calling “Fracture Town”. In fact, from our current location, we decided that those ridges may be a bit too rough for comfort, so we are planning a slight change in course that will take us a bit south of our original path. The new path …


23 April 2016

Sols 1320-1322: Drilling at Lubango

The contact science activities on Sol 1319 went well, and we analyzed another DRT location with MAHLI and APXS.  The drill pre-load test suggested that the Lubango block might have moved slightly, but the RPs feel comfortable to go ahead and drill in the weekend plan. I was on duty as GSTL again today, and it’s always exciting when we get to drill a new sample on Mars.  In addition …


21 April 2016

Sol 1318: DRT at Lubango

The bump on Sol 1317 went well, and we’re ready to start our drilling campaign at the “Lubango” fracture zone.  After a lot of discussion this morning, the plan evolved to include contact science at three targets near “Lubango.”  First we’ll use the DRT to clear off a fresh surface.  This DRT location is slightly offset from the intended drill location, so we’ll use MAHLI to image both the DRT …


19 April 2016

Sol 1317: Preparing to Drill

On Sol 1316, Curiosity drove ~15 m back toward the “Lubango” target, which we first observed on Sol 1310.  “Lubango” is a high silica target that sits along a fracture in the Stimson formation.  The team decided to drill near this fracture to better understand both the altered and unaltered Stimson bedrock.  “Lubango” is the flat block on the right side of the above Navcam image.  The fracture is still …


18 April 2016

Sol 1316: Back to Lobango

All of the activities planned for last weekend completed successfully, including the full MAHLI wheel imaging and associated rover motion of just over 1 meter.  The science team decided to return to the Lubango outcrop based on ChemCam results that show unusually high silica there.  Therefore, the Sol 1316 plan includes a drive back toward Lubango to find good targets for drilling.  Before the drive, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe …


Sols 1313-1315: Full MAHLI wheel imaging

Tactical planning was a bit hectic today as we reacted to yesterday’s change in the near-term science goals, but the team quickly determined what is feasible and put together a good plan.  There are no good brushable targets in the arm workspace, so the DRT will not be used.  Rather, we selected 3 targets for MAHLI imaging and APXS measurements of natural surfaces.  I’m MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead today, and have …


16 April 2016

Sol 1312: The best laid plans…

The original plan for today included an ~11 m drive to get closure to a fracture in the Stimson formation.  However, during science discussion, the team talked further about how to best sample both altered and unaltered Stimson bedrock, and realized that some of the best places to accomplish the proposed sampling were likely behind us!  As a result of this discussion, the drive in today’s plan was pulled at …


12 April 2016

Sol 1310: Good morning Mars!

Well, that was an early morning! I was on duty as the KOP today and we started at 6:30 am, so I was up and looking at new pictures of Mars before sunrise. Normally I would not be happy about getting up so early, but I reminded myself this morning that getting to help run a nuclear-powered laser-wielding robot on Mars is worth losing a little bit of sleep every …


11 April 2016

Sol 1309: Curiosity Can’t Catch a Break

We just can’t catch a break lately! Curiosity is healthy but unfortunately the plan for the weekend was not transmitted to Mars due to a Deep Space Network outage. That means that the contact science that was planned for the weekend is lost, but the team decided that it was not important enough for us to delay driving. Today’s plan attempts to at least recover the remote sensing observations before …


10 April 2016

Sols 1307-1308: Deja vu all over again

On Sol 1305, the rover straightened its wheels in preparation for a drive, but then the fault that prevented driving earlier this week occurred again, and the vehicle did not move.  The engineers are preparing to send parameter changes that will eliminate mobility actuator sensitivity to the transient power spikes. Fortunately, there are some rocks in front of the rover that are suitable for contact science, so the arm will …


30 March 2016

Sols 1298-1299: Drive cut short

The Sol 1296 drive was halted after only 4 meters of progress because the suspension on the left side of the rover was more tilted than expected.  Suspension checks are routinely included in drive sequences, to keep the vehicle safe, and MSL is indeed safe.  So the Sol 1298 plan includes a drive to the same location as previously planned.  We were also able to squeeze in some pre-drive remote …


28 March 2016

Sols 1296-1297: Driving Across Rough Terrain

MSL drove about 17 meters on Sol 1294, continuing over rough terrain.  Some of the images that have been recently received show delicate features that have apparently been formed by windblown sand abrasion.  The path ahead is over more rough terrain, but it looks like we will be able to drive ~50 meters on Sol 1296.  Before driving, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe bedrock targets “Bloedkoppie,” “Blaubeker” and “Blaubock,” and …


24 March 2016

Sol 1292: Gnarly terrain ahead

Data was recovered from the missing MRO pass on Sol 1290, and we confirmed that the 23 m drive went well.  Today’s plan is to keep driving across the Naukluft Plateau.  The terrain looks pretty rough, so we’re plotting our course carefully.  Science activities in today’s plan include ChemCam and Mastcam observations to assess the local bedrock, and a Mastcam mosaic to document the sedimentary structures exposed here.  The plan …