17 June 2018
The last time Curiosity drove anywhere was 30 martian days ago. A lot has happened in these past 30 sols. The rover got its groove back and successfully carried out a feed extended percussion drill activity and delivered drilled rock powder samples to the analytical instruments internal to the rover. These two instruments are the CheMin X-Ray Diffractometer and the SAM mass spectrometer/gas chromatograph/tunable laser spectrometer suite, which have been without fresh samples to analyze for months. Of course over the time while the drill was inoperable, Curiosity still carried out some fantastic scientific investigations examining the nature of the Vera Rubin Ridge. With its newly resurrected drilling capabilities, Curiosity will do one last pass over the Vera Rubin Ridge units, now that the rest of the instrument suite onboard can have access to this and future drill samples.
After completing the last little bit of drill related activities designed to characterize the sampling site in detail, Curiosity will hit the road on the second sol of this three sol plan. However, the rover won’t be driving very far due to the rough terrain, only around 13 meters. We’ll carry out the usual suite of imaging at this site following the drive to make sure we can acquire the needed data to support contact science in the next plan. In the coming months, Curiosity will end its stint on the Vera Rubin Ridge and continue up Mt. Sharp.
Written by Christopher Edwards, Planetary Geologist at Northern Arizona University