29 April 2018

Sols 2036-2037: Down the ridge she comes

Posted by Ryan Anderson

Curiosity continues to pick her way downhill off the ‘Vera Rubin Ridge’ and onto the Murray formation rocks below. This weekend’s plan only covers two sols, to give Earth planning time and Mars time a chance to realign so that the science team is not up in the middle of the night commanding the rover. The two sols, however, are still chock full of activities. The rover is positioned on a rock-strewn sandy slope, and the science team thought the scattered rocks of the workspace would be better interrogated with Mastcam and ChemCam than MAHLI and APXS. ChemCam targeted ‘Virginia,’ a tan bedrock slab with small nodules, ‘Shannon Lake,’ a red bedrock slab, and ‘Eveleth,’ a block with distinctive layers. One of the advantages of driving backward is that rocks the rover has driven over end up in view of the remote sensing instruments. Mastcam acquired multispectral data from a rock broken by the rover wheels, the target ‘Britt,’ and an expanse of crossbedded ! outcrop, ‘Aurora,’ to the left of the rover. Mastcam completed imaging of the ‘Taconite’ crater structure, which the rover has been skirting around the last several sols, with a large mosaic, and captured a single image of a well-preserved scarp in the sand amongst the rocks dubbed ‘Kinney.’

While MAHLI did not see any action over rock targets today, she will image the REMS UV sensor, positioned on the rover deck. Such MAHLI images keep track of dust accumulation, supporting the observations of the sky made by the sensor. The sky itself will get attention from Mastcam and Navcam, with observations of dust in the atmosphere and dust devils at midday, and observations of dust in the atmosphere and clouds in the early morning.

After a ~50 m drive, Curiosity ought to be positioned within sight of two prominent vertical outcrop faces farther east along the Vera Rubin Ridge. These are high interest targets for imaging for next week, as the team hopes they provide further insight into the structure and formation of the ridge itself. After the drive, CheMin will conduct an empty cell analysis, a move in preparation for what the team hopes is acquisition and delivery of a new drilled sample in the not-too-distant future.

Written by Michelle Minitti, Planetary Geologist at Framework