29 October 2017
Following a series of setbacks this week, Curiosity is on track to have a productive, albeit stationary, weekend. Monday’s communication issue and Wednesday’s possible difficulties in delivering the ‘Ogunquit Beach’ sample to the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument have given the science team a series of headaches as we try to make progress along Vera Rubin Ridge. Even yesterday, the team discovered an error with the left Mastcam data transfer that has marked the instrument temporarily SICK and is preventing us from acquiring new data from it until sometime after this weekend’s plan. Nonetheless, the team is optimistic moving into the weekend, and has planned a really nice suite of observations.
Curiosity will try one more time to deliver Ogunquit Beach sample to the SAM instrument, and SAM will hopefully perform an evolved gas analysis (EGA) on the sample overnight on the first evening of this weekend’s plan. Curiosity will spend the majority of the following day (Saturday) sleeping and recharging, as the EGA analyses require significant power to perform. Towards the end of that day, Curiosity will image and brush a patch of flat bedrock in front of the rover named ‘Sibasa’ and will analyze this patch of bedrock with the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument to accurately characterize the chemistry of this region. This will be an overnight measurement.
On Sunday, Curiosity will spend two hours investigating her surroundings with Mastcam images as well as ChemCam laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) measurements. ChemCam will analyze four separate targets: ‘Schmidtsdrif,’ ‘Sibasa,’ ‘Lisbon,’ and ‘Estecourt.’ Schmidtsdrif is a potentially hematite-rich target that is similar to iron-rich targets identified earlier this week. Sibasa is the brushed and imaged target that was also analyzed using the APXS instrument. Lisbon is a patch of dark soil near the rover. Estecourt is a raised block of material that is also similar to a previous sol‘s target, and these analyses will hopefully allow for comparisons between targets.
Mastcam imaging will not only document these ChemCam targets, but will also be used to acquire additional images further away from the rover to inspect the nature of the Vera Rubin Ridge from this location, and to help us plan for future traverses. As the left Mastcam instrument is currently unavailable, all imaging will be done with Mastcam‘s right ‘eye.’
With all of the headaches that arose this week, the science team and rover planners have managed to again arrange for some wonderful science to be done with the resources that are currently available. On Monday, we will hopefully have accomplished a successful EGA analysis on Ogunquit Beach, will have used the APXS instrument to characterize Sibasa, and will have a plethora of new Mastcam and ChemCam observations to understand this section of the Vera Rubin Ridge. Hopefully all of your weekends will be more relaxing than Curiosity’s!
Written by Dr. Mark Salvatore, Planetary Geologist at University of Michigan