12 March 2018

Sol 1988-1990: Stop and Smell the Argon

Posted by Ryan Anderson

We found out this morning that in the Sol 1986 plan, ChemCam was marked as ‘sick’ and did not run its sequences. But on the bright side, it’s a repeat of a minor issue that we’ve seen before, and so ChemCam will be back in action in today’s 3-sol plan.

The plan begins on Sol 1988 with a bunch of Mastcam observations. We have stereo mosaics of an area near the target ‘Golspie’ and an area called ‘Loch Eriboll’ that we are scoping out as a potential drill site, as well as a broader context mosaic that covers both areas. Mastcam will also make a multispectral observation in the drive direction. After that, with ChemCam back online, it will analyze the target ‘North Harris’ and Mastcam will take a documentation image. Later in the day, MAHLI will take some pictures of the targets ‘Barkeval’ and ‘North Harris’ and then APXS will do a quick analysis of ‘Barkeval’ and an overnight measurement of ‘North Harris’.

On Sol 1989, MAHLI will inspect our battered wheels, and then we will drive for about 45 meters, followed by the usual post-drive imaging. APXS will pull another all-nighter, this time in the stowed position. By collecting data while not touching a rock, APXS can measure the amount of argon in the martian atmosphere, which is useful since unlike carbon dioxide and water vapor, argon doesn’t freeze out of the atmosphere at the poles every winter!

Speaking of the atmosphere, Sol 1990 was dedicated to lots of atmospheric observations. Mastcam has some observations of dust in the atmosphere in the early morning and early afternoon, and Navcam will watch for clouds at those times as well. Navcam also has some early morning observations of the atmospheric ‘phase function’: basically, how bright the sky is at different angles from the sun. Navcam will also watch for dust devils in the afternoon.

Written by Ryan Anderson, Planetary Geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center