6 May 2017

Sol 1687: Mega-science at a megaripple!

Posted by Ryan Anderson

This image was taken by Front Hazcam: Left B (FHAZ_LEFT_B) onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 1686 (2017-05-04 12:08:01 UTC).
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The rover planners executed another great drive to park us in front of a megaripple in order to study its physical and chemical characteristics, which we can compare and contrast to the sands we investigated during our recent Bagnold dune campaign.

As the geology (GEO) theme group lead today, my job was to make sure we planned the highest priority observations of the megaripple, and positioned ourselves to successfully complete all the desired observations of the megaripple in the upcoming weekend plan. Working with my fellow GEO group members and all the individual instrument teams is one of the most satisfying parts of the job, as everyone brings their experience and capabilities together to build a plan that gets the most science out of the rover each sol. We certainly put Curiosity to work, planning MAHLI and APXS observations of the target “Schoolhouse Ledge” along the ripple crest, and the target “Man of War Brook” along the flank of the ripple. To keep the structure of the ripple crest pristine for MAHLI imaging, we shot ChemCam across another part of the ripple crest, the target “Gilpatrick Ledge”. We also used ChemCam to interrogate the target “The Gorge”, located inside the wheel scuff the rover planners purposely cut into the ripple to expose its interior structure. GEO planned a Mastcam observation using filters at specific wavelengths of light that help constrain what iron-bearing minerals are present within the sands. The target for this observation was “Cobbosseecontee Lake”, which one of our Maine-dwelling team members insisted was not challenging to say (it is actually pretty phonetic…)! Even with our focus on the megaripple, there was still time to image the rocks around us with Mastcam, including an expanse of well-layered bedrock south of us called “Amphitheater Valley”. Last but not least, GEO started a series of MARDI images – one image acquired each evening we are parked at the megaripple – to look for wind-induced changes. These change detection images help the team understand if (or how) wind activity and direction are changing as we leave the Bagnold dunes. Speaking of winds, the environmental (ENV) theme group planned a dust devil survey to look for those telltale signs of wind activity. ENV also acquired a long DAN passive observation, and regular RAD and REMS measurements.

Written by Michelle Minitti, Planetary Geologist at Framework