5 December 2017
After spending the weekend analyzing the chemistry of several interesting targets, the science team has planned yet another action-packed science investigation into Curiosity’s next two days on Vera Rubin Ridge. In addition, while Curiosity has spent the last several weeks progressing largely to the south, the team has started to command Curiosity to head more towards the east, doglegging left along the nominal Mt. Sharp Ascent Route (MSAR). Over the next few days, the plan is for Curiosity to investigate what appears to be a small eroded impact crater as well as an erosional window into some visually distinct bedrock outcrops.
Before reaching these targets, Curiosity will conduct some additional investigations of the VRR and the local blocky materials. Sol 1895 has a 1.5 hour block of time dedicated to remote observations of the surrounding terrain. Curiosity will begin with some Mastcam color images of two interesting targets in front of the rover: a blocky exposure of fractured bedrock (named ‘Mapedi’) and a nodular piece of bedrock (named ‘Koonap’). Afterwards, ChemCam will make active LIBS measurements on three bedrock targets (named ‘Naute,’ ‘Mzamba,’ and ‘Nauga,’ located above the shadow of Curiosity’s mast in the provided Navcam image) that are different in tone than other dusty materials in front of the rover, followed by a Mastcam documentation image of this target area.
Following these measurements, Curiosity’s arm will be unfurled and she will acquire high-resolution MAHLI images of the Mzamba target in addition to an overnight APXS analysis to derive the rock’s bulk chemistry. The next day, before heading towards the eroded impact crater, Curiosity will stow her arm in preparation for the ~1 hour drive to the east. Following her drive, Curiosity will undertake the standard post-drive imaging sequence in addition to acquiring a MARDI image to document the terrain immediately under the rover’s belly.
Random Fact of the Day: One of today’s ChemCam targets is named ‘Naute,’ which is the name of a dam in Namibia along a tributary of the Fish River. Namibia’s Fish River Canyon is the largest canyon in Africa, and is a widely visited tourist attraction for its scenic views. The Fish River Canyon is also home to an annual ultra marathon (100 km distance) that travels through the difficult terrain along the margins of the river. As of today, Curiosity only has another 82.174 km to traverse before completing her own ultra marathon!
Written by Dr. Mark Salvatore, Planetary Geologist at University of Michigan