15 March 2018
As we drive east across the top of ‘Vera Rubin Ridge’ – backwards no less! – we encountered another nice patch of bedrock in Curiosity’s workspace today, motivating multiple observations before we hit the road once again. The bedrock in front of us resembled that which we studied on Sol 1991, where we imaged the target ‘Seaforth Head‘ . Seaforth Head exhibits small crystals like the ones we found at the ‘Jura’ outcrop, and we hoped that today’s workspace might turn up more crystals. To look for them, we planned a Mastcam M100 mosaic over a wide swath of the workspace. Our more detailed assessment of the bedrock will include coordinated observations of the gray bedrock target ‘Stirling Castle’ with MAHLI, APXS and ChemCam. This target’s name also gave us a chance to honor one of the rover planners operating the rover today, Stirling Algermissen! ChemCam will acquire a second raster on ‘Dunottar,’ bedrock which is rough and reddish at its base and smooth and gray at its top.
ChemCam will be kept very busy imaging far away targets and the sky in this plan. Nine overlapping RMI images of Peace Vallis will be acquired in an effort to combine them into a single image of higher resolution. As we did on Sols 1986-1987(link to the Sol 1986-87 blog), we will image the yardang unit on the flank of Mt. Sharp with two long distance RMI mosaics. These mosaics will help us increase our understanding of the internal structure of this unit. Just as we often use ChemCam in passive mode to look at the spectroscopic signature of rocks around us, in this plan we will use that same mode to look at the sky. ChemCam passive observations of the sky allow us to estimate concentrations of aerosols and trace gases in the atmosphere. To ensure the passive sky observation is well-calibrated, ChemCam will acquire passive spectra from the ChemCam calibration targets both before and after the sky observation.
The atmosphere will get more attention after our ~35 m drive, with images to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere and movies that seek out clouds. APXS will also get its turn, measuring the amount of atmospheric Ar as the turret remains stowed on the night of Sol 1994.
Written by Michelle Minitti, Planetary Geologist at Framework