12 August 2017
For this three sol weekend plan, Curiosity sidled up to the base of the Vera Rubin Ridge (VRR), whose proximity is evidenced by the 12 degree upward tilt of the rover’s parking position, for an extended suite of imaging of the ridge and its surroundings.
Curiosity will acquire a large mosaic (70 images!) with Mastcam‘s highest resolution camera of the beautiful bedding structures and dramatic veins seen in this portion of the VRR. She will also zoom in on two areas of particular interest – an example of parallel layering and a contact between bright and dark rocks – using ChemCam‘s Remote Microscopic Imager to further draw out details of the structures apparent there. These mosaics, along with others previously acquired at other imaging stops along the base of the VRR, will help the team unravel the origin of the VRR and its relationship to the Murray formation that Curiosity has spent so much time traversing over. Views of the relationship of the VRR and the Murray formation will also be afforded by the 360 degree Mastcam mosaic planned for early morning on Sol 1785.
The Murray formation will get up close and personal attention this weekend, as Curiosity will use MAHLI and APXS on two complementary Murray formation targets, ‘Burnt Coat’ and ‘Pond of Tea.’ The former appears representative of Murray formation in this area, while the latter appears to have a greater proportion of sulfate material present within it. Burnt Coat will live up to its name, also getting shot by ChemCam‘s laser before it is imaged with MAHLI.
The ENV group cast Curiosity’s gaze up above the VRR, acquiring ChemCam passive spectra of the sky to ascertain atmospheric chemistry, Mastcam images to measure atmospheric dustiness, and Navcam movies to search for clouds, like those captured in previous sky imaging efforts.
With all this science in the bag, Curiosity will drive east and steadily closer to the spot where we will eventually make our ridge ascent. With the ridge remaining a dramatic target to our south for many sols to come, more spectacular imaging opportunities await!
Written by Michelle Minitti, Planetary Geologist at Framework