5 July 2018

Sol 2104-06: Have we reached the peak?

Posted by Ryan Anderson

Our primary goal for today’s planning was to continue to approach our next drill location on the Vera Rubin Ridge by paralleling the north side of the ridge (seen on the left side of this image) during this plan’s drive while documenting the geochemistry of the bedrock we’re currently parked on and continuing to study the ongoing planet-encircling dust storm. A warning from ChemCam received early this morning prevented us from employing ChemCam for both of those purposes, but it was cleared up later and will be ready for Monday’s planning. We therefore took advantage of the unexpected availability of science time to include some routine Mastcam calibration activities and additional observations of the dust storm.

The amount of dust over Gale Crater has been slowly declining over the last two weeks and it’s possible the dust storm has reached its ‘peak.’ Whereas on Earth we have thousands of surface weather stations and a constellation of spacecraft observing the weather, on Mars we are comparatively blind to global conditions. But based on what data we do have, we may now be entering (or soon entering) the period where the massive amount of dust in the atmosphere will slowly settle out and Mars’ shrouded surface may once again be clearly visible from space.

Written by Scott Guzewich, Atmospheric Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center