29 May 2017

Sol 1712: Eyes on the prize

Posted by Ryan Anderson

Despite the holiday weekend, the science and engineering teams were greeted with a plethora of data from Curiosity when they started planning Sol 1712 – like your birthday and your favorite winter (gift-getting) holiday rolled into one. The science team had beautifully illuminated MAHLI images of the unique texture of our weekend targets ‘White Ledge’ and ‘Patty Lot Hill,’ loads of ChemCam and APXS data from rocks and soils, and new atmospheric measurements courtesy of SAM, ChemCam, Navcam and Mastcam. The engineers had new drill diagnostic data, which will help them learn ways to get the drill back in use. Getting to put Curiosity right back to work after receiving such an embarrassment of riches makes for one grateful team.

The bedrock in front of the rover resembled the Murray formation bedrock we have seen over the last week or so, so the science team did not feel the need to acquire MAHLI and APXS on it before driving away. Instead, the team eyed an outcrop of gray toned, layered rock about 10 m to the south.

We have seen this type of gray-toned rock before, which differs in chemistry and texture from the Murray formation, but have had little luck accessing it for contact science. To further understand how and why this outcrop differs from the Murray, the team asked the rover planners to drive us to the outcrop for a touch-and-go on it with MAHLI and APXS in the plan tomorrow. While the rover planners could have driven to a point ~15 m past the gray outcrop, the team felt the opportunity to reach out and touch this rock was worth driving a little bit less than was possible today. We will all have our fingers crossed for a successful drive!

Before heading down the road, we acquired ChemCam data from two targets, ‘Ned Island’ and ‘Ravens Nest,’ both of which will add to our Murray formation dataset as we climb Mt. Sharp. We kept tabs on the dynamic environment around us by acquiring REMS and RAD measurements, Mastcam images of dust in the atmosphere, and Mastcam images of changes in sand blown onto the rover deck. All told, it was a successful start to what should be another great week in Gale Crater!

Written by Michelle Minitti, Planetary Geologist at Framework