11 July 2017

Sol 1753: Wishful Thinking

Posted by Ryan Anderson

This image was taken by Navcam: Left B (NAV_LEFT_B) onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 1752 (2017-07-11 06:58:28 UTC). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Curiosity Rover activities planned for Sol 1753 revolve around a quick ‘touch-and-go’ chemistry measurement using the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument on Curiosity’s arm. After a ~10 meter drive while most Americans were asleep, Curiosity parked herself in front of another suite of beautifully fractured bedrock belonging to the Murray formation. The rover will begin her morning activities at approximately 9:30pm PDT, and about an hour later will conduct the short APXS measurement and high-resolution MAHLI imaging on a smooth block of the Murray formation known as ‘Foxbird.’ Later, the ChemCam instrument will collect chemistry information of Foxbird by ablating five small spots in the target using laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) and recording the spectral properties of the generated plasma to determine the chemistry of the target. An additional Murray bedrock target known as ‘Damariscotta’ will be targeted in three locations using ChemCam. The Damariscotta target exhibits beautiful thin layers along its edge, which is the target of this ChemCam investigation. Before driving further east along the nominal Mount Sharp Ascent Route (MSAR), Mastcam will be used to document both Foxbird and Damariscotta in color.

Following a planned drive lasting approximately one hour scheduled to begin at approximately 1:00am PDT, Curiosity will snap some Navcam images of her immediate surroundings before beaming them back to Earth via the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. After phoning home, Curiosity will then complete her Navcam imaging, will acquire Mastcam images of nearby rock clasts and MARDI images of the terrain immediately beneath the rover, and will conduct a relatively short hunt for dust devils using Navcam.

The second ChemCam target in this plan is named for Damariscotta, Maine, a small coastal town plagued by violent conflicts and skirmishes during the 1600s and 1700s. Damariscotta is home to Whaleback Shell Midden, a huge heap of oyster shells that were discarded by the native populations well before the arrival of Europeans to the region. Digging through this midden reveals layer after layer of loosely consolidated shells that are now incorporated into the local geologic record. Might we one day find a shell midden along the margin of the ancient lake that once filled Gale Crater? Wishful thinking, methinks, but you can count on Curiosity to keep her eyes peeled.

Written by Dr. Mark Salvatore, Planetary Geologist at University of Michigan