30 May 2018

Sol 2067: ‘Tis the Season to be Dusty.

Posted by Ryan Anderson

The previous plan included some tests of the sample delivery system, including delivery of a single portion to the closed cover of the SAM inlet. The imaging showed a small amount made it, but not as much as we’d hoped. So the team decided to postpone CheMin sample delivery until tomorrow’s plan, leaving us even more time for science activities in today’s single sol plan for Sol 2067.

The environmental theme group seized the opportunity to take a long ‘dust devil search’ movie pointed roughly to the northwest, where we currently have a beautiful view back down the slope of Aeolis Mons toward the Bagnold Dunes, and all the way across Gale Crater’s floor to the northwest rim (as shown in this Navcam image from Sol 2060). We’ve just moved past southern spring equinox, which means we’re now in the half of the Mars year when global dust storms are observed to begin. However, the increased surface heating as we head for the warmest time of year should also produce a peak in convective activity and hence in dust-filled vortices known as dust devils. We’ve already seen a lot this Mars year in our location higher up the slope, so we’re hoping for a bumper crop in spring and summer! The ENV theme group also added a long 360° dust devil survey and cloud movie as well as the usual REMS and DAN activities.

On the geology side, following our haul of change detection images over the weekend, we continued to look for surface changes on the Duluth drill tailings and on target ‘Noodle Lake’ that has loose material sitting on the bedrock. The purpose of these experiments is to help us figure out the wind direction and its relative strength at this location, which may help to explain some of the sampling issues (e.g. if the sample is being blown away as it drops). ChemCam also made measurements on ‘Sawtooth Bluff,’ a gray, thin alteration layer raised above the bedrock surface, repeating measurements made previously on the nearby ‘Grand Marais’ target, and on ‘Gary,’ a raised ridge feature, as well as taking two long-distance RMI images of the ‘Red Cliff’ target as part of an engineering test.

Written by Claire Newman