29 August 2017
Curiosity drove 23.3 meters over the weekend, bringing us even closer to the area we will ascend Vera Rubin Ridge. We have reached the point in the traverse where we are no longer headed east along the ridge, but instead are turning to the south where orbital data show the ridge has slopes shallow enough for Curiosity to climb. We were also able to acquire some spectacular Mastcam and ChemCam RMI images of the ridge in the weekend plan, including our last ‘official’ approach imaging mosaic! These images continue to show very interesting, fine scale sedimentary structures that hold the secrets of how the lower ridge layers were deposited.
One of the big challenges putting the plan together today was making sure the observations we wanted didn’t leave the batteries too drained at the end of the plan. We keep careful track of the expected state of charge of the batteries because we want to make sure they will last a long time, and because we want to have enough power available going into the next sol‘s plan. Getting everything to fit inside power guidelines was challenging today in part because late autumn has come to Gale Crater. Colder temperatures mean we have to run heaters for longer, which takes more energy.
Fortunately, we were still able to figure out a way to fit many observations into the two sol plan. We’ll start off on sol 1800 with some contact science, including MAHLI and APXS observations of an interesting eroded Murray formation rock target named ‘Bauneg Beg.’ Following the contact science, we’ll make some ChemCam LIBS observations of targets ‘Bucklin Rock’ and ‘Gilkey Harbor,’ and then take a 12×1 Mastcam right eye mosaic that will cover the area directly in front of the rover. Bucklin Rock looks similar to Bauneg Bag, and Gilkey Harbor is a dark, smooth rock. After our morning science, Curiosity will drive south towards Vera Rubin Ridge. After the drive on sol 1801, Curiosity will do some untargeted remote sensing, including collecting some data from the ChemCam calibration targets, and taking a Navcam suprahorizon movie, performing a dust devil search, and looking at the sun to assess the amount of dust in the atmosphere (a tau measurement).
Written by Abigail Fraeman, Planetary Geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory