15 November 2017
There was no drive in the plan today, so the science team spent the morning identifying and working out a plan to characterize several high-priority science targets. What makes this day a bit different than other days is that Curiosity is sitting right on the boundary between two geologic units observed from orbit. In the next few days Curiosity will drive over this contact between the lighter-toned, lower unit and the darker-toned, upper unit of the Vera Rubin Ridge. These brightness differences observed from orbit are quite striking and at Curiosity’s current position, both of these units were visible and reachable by the arm.
In this plan, Curiosity will conduct contact science on a light-toned block dubbed ‘Fort Brown’ and a dark-toned pebble dubbed ‘Middleton’. These targets will have Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) data acquired of them, illuminating their major element chemistry. Curiosity will carry out these contact science activities all while parked on a very steep slope, approximately ~19˚, which is about as steep as the steepest road on Earth, Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand. In addition to the two contact science targets, Curiosity will measure several similarly appearing targets with the remote sensing ChemCam instrument. In the days to come Curiosity will gain a much better understanding of these darker-toned materials as it continues on its journey up Mt. Sharp.
Written by Christopher S. Edwards