24 February 2018
Curiosity is officially go for drilling the ‘Lake Orcadie’ target! After more than a year’s wait for the drill to come back online, the rover planners and engineers are confident and ready to proceed with a test of a new drilling method in the coming days.
Because there is only so much data volume and rover power to go around, performing drill activities must temporarily come at the expense of scientific investigations (although you’d be pressed to find a disappointed science team member this week, as the drilling campaign will bring loads of new scientific data!). As a result, with the exception of some environmental observations by the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) instrument, today’s plan does not have any targeted scientific observations within it. Today will instead be dedicated to drill preload activities and imaging for engineering and rover planning purposes in preparation for a full test of the revised drilling operations.
The name ‘Lake Orcadie’ refers to an ancient lake that was once located in Scotland and is now a series of sedimentary deposits preserved in the geologic record. The Lake Orcadie sediments in Scotland helped geologists to reconstruct the environmental history of the Devonian period on Earth, when fish began to diversify. Considering this target will be the first drill location on Vera Rubin Ridge (VRR), perhaps these new data will help inform us as to what sort of geologic and environmental conditions were present during this time in the history of Gale crater.
Written by Mark Salvatore, Planetary Geologist at University of Michigan