17 December 2017
Only two days ago, Curiosity was exploring a region of the Vera Rubin Ridge that appears more ‘blue’ than its surroundings, and consists of patches of sand and clean bedrock. Curiosity spent several days at this location, trying to understand the diversity within this interesting geologic region, taking pictures, and making geochemical measurements.
After a ~14 meter drive to the east out of this ‘blue’ region, we’re in a completely different type of landscape – lots of smaller rocks and bedrock exposures that appear more ‘red’ or ‘purple’ than the previous ‘blue’ terrain. The original plan was to try to brush a rock surface and to perform a suite of geochemical analyses over the weekend, but the lack of large blocks will prohibit our ability to brush a rock clean (see image). Instead, the team is going to use the ChemCam LIBS analyses to both measure the chemistry of two rock targets (‘Haddo House’ and ‘Holyrood’) as well as blast away surface dust, which will allow for the APXS instrument to have a clear view of ‘clean’ bedrock material for its analyses over the weekend. A third ChemCam target named ‘Old Man of Storr’ is a bright clast that is very different from the other rocks in the scene. Lastly, Mastcam will be used to investigate local color and spectral variability, and to also image the region ahead of the rover to help plan for future traverses.
The team also decided not to drive this weekend, instead giving the team more opportunity to interpret the data acquired over the past few days and leaving the option in place to potentially continue our exploration of this area of the Vera Rubin Ridge before getting too far away. This decision will also prevent Curiosity from using too much power, in case the team decides next week to plan some power-intensive analysis using the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument.