16 June 2017

Sol 1729 – 1731: Roving Right Along

Posted by Ryan Anderson

This image was taken by ChemCam: Remote Micro-Imager (CHEMCAM_RMI) onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 1727 (2017-06-15 14:25:28 UTC). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

The drive on Sol 1728 was successful, and our weekend plan will be chock-full of activities. On the first sol, we will do some contact science on the rather colorful workspace that is currently in front of the Curiosity rover. We will be collecting MAHLI and APXS observations of two targets, ‘Frazer Creek’ and ‘Lurvey Spring.’ We will also collect some ChemCam observations of ‘Mark Island’ and Frazer Creek plus the corresponding Mastcam documentation images of these targets. Finally, we will take a full multispectral filter Mastcam observation of Mark Island, as well as additional Mastcam images of targets ‘Big Spencer Mountain’ and ‘Monument Cove.’

Curiosity will wake up around 3 in the morning between the first and second sols of the plan to make a special observation of Mars’ moon Phobos. We are going to watch Phobos as it emerges from Mars’ shadow into sunlight. This will help us measure the amount and size of dust particles in Mars’ upper atmosphere. After the sun rises on the second sol of the weekend plan, we’ll do full MAHLI wheel imaging (or FMWI in rover-acronym speak). We take images of our wheels using MAHLI throughout a full wheel rotation every few hundred meters to track the rate of wheel damage.

On the third sol of the plan, we will drive and have a post-drive ChemCam AEGIS observation and dust devil search. The drive will place us ~35 meters closer to the second Vera Rubin Ridge approach-imaging stop. The data Curiosity collected during the first imaging stop earlier in the week have been coming down over the last few days, and they look absolutely spectacular. For example, a portion of the ChemCam RMI mosaic we took of the lower most layers of the ridge show a lot of fine-scale layers. I mapped Vera Rubin Ridge using orbital data as part of my PhD thesis five years ago, so it’s been so exciting for me to see these images after staring at the area from above for so long. The fine scale details that we’ll be able to collect using Curiosity’s instruments will help us understand how Vera Rubin Ridge formed, and any implications for past habitable environments at Gale Crater.

Written by Abigail Fraeman, Planetary Geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory