12 November 2015

Sols 1162-1163: Approaching Bagnold Dunes

Posted by Ryan Anderson


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 rocks.  The drive should place the rover between two of the Bagnold Dunes, so the vehicle will turn to a heading that will maximize the chances of acquiring good REMS measurements of wind speed and direction.  This observation is part of the dune study campaign that has been developed over the past year, with an overall goal of better understanding how winds on Mars form and modify dunes.  Observations of the dunes from orbit show that they are active, so many members of the MSL science team are looking forward to detailed measurements of the winds and their effects on the sand dunes and nearby terrain, as winds are currently the most significant agent of erosion on Mars.  On Sol 1163, Mastcam will take pictures of the rover deck to allow tracking of changes in the distribution of dust and sand on the top of the vehicle, and image the sun to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere.  Navcam will also observe the sky and search for dust devils.

by Ken Herkenhoff

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.