16 May 2018
Our sol 2054 plan was limited by a small morning downlink. Occasionally, the flight paths of the Mars orbiters over Gale Crater don’t have favorable geometries for relays with Curiosity, and this means our data downlink passes are smaller than average. Today we received only 1.6 MB (Megabytes) of data at the start of our planning day. This was just enough to tell us the drive executed successfully and the rover was healthy, but not enough to include any new images from our current spot. We did get another (also small) downlink several hours into planning, which gave us the first view of our drill target smack in the middle of our workspace – a rock we are calling ‘Duluth.’
Since we didn’t have images available at the start of the planning day to choose science targets, we will spend most of sol 2054 completing ‘untargeted’ activities. We will collect data from the ChemCam calibration target, take pictures of the sky with MAHLI (sky flats), snap a photo of the rover deck with Mastcam, and squeeze in one LIBS target that will be chosen autonomously by the rover using the AEGIS software. We will also make observations to characterize our environment and the dust in the atmosphere, including a Mastcam tau observation and images of the crater rim, and Navcam images of the sky and horizon.
We will also image Mars’ moon Phobos passing in front of the sun around 8:30 in morning of sol 2055, before we handover to the new plan. We’ve taken Phobos transit images several times before (i.e. https://mars.nasa.gov/resources/4805/phobos-transit-viewed-by-opportunity-on-sol-3078/), and these data help us better constrain the orbit of this small, potato shaped moon.
Written by Abigail Fraeman, Planetary Geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory