21 September 2017
Curiosity continues her traverse across the lowermost portions of Vera Rubin Ridge, where she continues to investigate the interesting rock textures and colors ahead. Our current location is quite dusty, which motivated the science team to focus on a relatively quick characterization of the surrounding bedrock, which will allow the rover to drive away and continue making progress towards some of the other interesting locations within Vera Rubin Ridge. The upcoming plan involves a quick ‘touch-and-go’ using the APXS and MAHLI instruments for the chemical and morphological investigation (respectively) of a flat piece of bedrock named ‘Sherwood Forest.’ After stowing her arm, Curiosity will then use Mastcam and ChemCam to analyze both ‘Sherwood Forest’ and a dark-toned target named ‘Tableland.’ These targets are located just to the left of center in this front Hazcam image.
Before driving away, Curiosity will also create a high-resolution Mastcam mosaic of a region to the southwest of her current location. This region was identified from orbit as a potential region of interest, as it shows a relatively steep slope with some potentially interesting bedrock exposures. Ever since ascending onto Vera Rubin Ridge, Curiosity has been making progress towards this location to determine whether it is worth investigating from close-range. As it turns out, the region doesn’t appear all that different from the parts of the ridge that Curiosity has already been exploring. So, instead of continuing the southwest drive towards this location, the team decided to blanket the area in high-resolution color imagery before turning to the east-southeast and towards another region of interest. Updating the rover’s planned traverse path using both orbital and ground-based data is very common, and this decision by the science team highlights how collaborative discussions and the ability to adjust plans in real-time can both save time and maximize the scientific return of the mission.
The title of today’s blog post is a quote from the beginning of the 1883 novel ‘The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood’ by Howard Pyle. It’s not every day that Curiosity roves around ‘Sherwood Forest!’ The full quote reads ‘And now I lift the curtain that hangs between here and No-man’s-land. Will you come with me, sweet Reader? I thank you. Give me your hand.’ I feel this quote is quite appropriate for us planetary scientists, who continually ‘lift the curtain’ between our lives on Earth and our investigation of the Red Planet.
Written by Mark Salvatore, Planetary Geologist at University of Michigan