3 April 2015
The MAHLI operations team did a lot of good work preparing for Sol 946, so I expected that it would be an easy day for me as uplink lead. Unfortunately, a problem on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) prevented some of the data we expected to receive in time for planning from being relayed to Earth. MRO has been very reliable in the past and we have gotten used to receiving most of the MSL data through MRO. Fortunately, the orbiter is recovering quickly and should be back to normal operations this weekend. But without some key MSL data this morning, it was more difficult than usual to plan arm activities. Despite valiant efforts by the Rover Planners and APXS team, a safe target for APXS placement could not be found.
The focus of the weekend plan is the outcrop at the center of this image. But first, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe nearby targets “Elsinore” and “Bishop” early in the afternoon of Sol 946. Then a few reconnaissance MAHLI images of potential APXS targets and a 12-position MAHLI mosaic of the outcrop are planned. Before dawn on Sol 947, Mastcam will image stars in order to measure the concentration of dust and ice in the atmosphere at night. After dawn, more Mastcam (plus Navcam and ChemCam) observations of the sky are planned for comparison with the nighttime measurements. Later that morning, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe a target dubbed “White Mountain.” Only two sols are being planned because Sunday is a “soliday,” a sol we skip on Mars so that we’re back in sync for unrestricted planning on Monday.
Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.