17 July 2017
(Originally posted July 13, 2017)
Today marked the last chance for us to reliably command Curiosity before she, and Mars, disappear behind the Sun for about three weeks. This made today’s planning feel as if the Sun were setting on our normally active rover activities, akin to the Martian sunset image from 2015 shown above. MAHLI, APXS and ChemCam were already stored safely for the upcoming conjunction nap, leaving Mastcam and MARDI to collect a few last bits of science data for the GEO group. Mastcam acquired mosaics of the ‘Vera Rubin Ridge’ above and in front of the rover, and of the workspace in front of the rover. Both mosaics not only inform us about the rocks around us, they will be used to plan activities right after we return from conjunction. Mastcam and MARDI will acquire images on sols 1757 and 1758 to look for wind-induced changes in the sands around the rover. These change detection images complement similar change detection images acquired at previous sand stops, revealing the dynamic nature of Mars. After imaging on Sol 1758, Mastcam will home her focus mechanisms and settle in for a well-deserved break.
The ENV group had a jam packed plan, acquiring three long Navcam movies seeking dust devils, and Mastcam and Navcam images monitoring the sky for clouds and dust load. The relative lack of other activities in the plan allowed these activities to be spaced out over early morning, mid-day and late afternoon times, giving the science team insight into how time of day influences atmospheric phenomena. DAN will acquire six long (at least one hour) passive observations, and RAD and REMS will continue their steady monitoring of the Gale Crater environment. DAN, RAD and REMS are the only three science instruments that will remain active over conjunction.
In addition to squeezing in science observations, Curiosity will conduct a suite of tests with the drill, another step in the efforts of the engineers to bring the drill back to full functionality. These tests will give the engineers just as much data to chew on over conjunction as the science team!
See you on the flip side, trusty rover!
Written by Michelle Minitti, Planetary Geologist at Framework