8 August 2012
Sol 2 to 3: First Navcams, and some new craters
Posted by Ryan Anderson
Today was another successful day on Mars! I woke up at around 4am and ate a quick breakfast before heading to JPL for my uplink shift. I was on duty as science payload uplink lead 2 (sPUL2) again today, and again it was a boring day for ChemCam. The sPUL2’s job is pretty vague: we are supposed to double check any observations to make sure they don’t look at the sun, and generally assist the ChemCam engineering PUL2 if necessary. Since there wasn’t a lot going on today, I was given permission to attend the science discussion meeting, which occurs at the end of the first shift. As I said yesterday, science discussion is way more fun than uplink meetings!
There was a lot of excitement today because the remote sensing mast successfully deployed and overnight we received the first full-resolution images from the navigation cameras. They revealed a gravely foreground of rolling terrain, marred by blast zones from the Skycrane’s rockets. These scoured areas revealed that there is only a thin layer of gravel and sand on top of what looks like either bedrock or much coarser chunks of rock. The early Navcam images also reveal a spectacular landscape, with a parched rocky plain in the foreground and the eroded crater rim in the distance. If you didn’t know better, you might think it was a view of the Mojave desert on earth!
Later in the day, a bunch more navcam images came down, and I had lots of fun squinting at them and taking in the local scenery. Unfortunately I don’t think they have been publicly released yet, so you will have to wait a bit to see them. To me, one of the most exiting things so far has been the gradual revelation of our surroundings as we get more and more instruments online. We started with the dirty, fish-eyed hazcam images right after landing. Then came the MAHLI thumbnails which helped us narrow down our landing location. Now we are getting our first good look around with Navcam, and soon we should start seeing high-resolution color images from Mastcam. It’s as if a veil is slowly being lifted, giving us an ever-improving view of Curiosity’s home.
The other exciting development today was that the context camera on MRO has discovered the craters created by the six tungsten masses that were jettisoned after the guided entry part of the descent was over. These chunks of metal careened down and impacted the lower mound to the east of the rover’s landing location. Their impact site is too far away to be reachable by the rover, but these artificial craters could still be scientifically useful because we know exactly how much energy the ballast masses had when they impacted. Studying their impacts might help understand the small natural impacts that are often seen in HiRISE and CTX images.
We have also started getting more full-resolution images from the descent imager. My personal favorite is this spectacular view of the heat shield falling away from the rover:
So, even though it was a slow day for ChemCam as the rover continues the commissioning phase, the latest images were plenty tantalizing to keep me busy! I’m looking forward to even more tomorrow!
Great to get your updates Ryan! Question: the other tungsten masses, the CMBDs ejected before entry – any idea where they were expected to land?
I’m not sure where the early masses were expected to land… sorry!
Great Post Ryan!!
MARS seems mostly a dead planet in past & present.It would be great if curiosity’s can finds some proof’s of life in past or present. 🙂
Any idea what the diameters (or dimensions) of the craters created by the tungsten masses are? Just curious.
It’s hard to say, because most of what we’re seeing is disturbed dust and not the crater itself. CTX resolution is 6 meters per pixel, but once HiRISE images it at 25 cm per pixel it might be easier to tell.
“Their impact site is too far away to be reachable by the rover…” – for the primary mission or for any extended mission too? With Curiosity using an RTG for power, I suppose it might last longer than its long-lived solar-powered predecessors. There might be a lot of good geo-science in examining the rock fracture patterns, welding, and ejecta. Approx how far away are these little craters?
I think the rover could easily survive the drive to the craters, but they are in the middle of a landslide deposit which would not have very good science return. Our goal is in the other direction, to where the layers in the mound are nicely exposed.