8 November 2018

Sol 2225: Science Galore at the Eighteenth Hole

Posted by Ryan Anderson

Tosol we received confirmation that Curiosity’s drill yestersol was successful, as shown in this Navcam image of the ‘Highfield’ target – our eighteenth drill hole in the martian surface!

Not quite a ‘hole in one,’ as we tried to sample the same gray Jura rock type about 50 sols ago, but we finally have a sample of our highest value target on Vera Rubin Ridge. Rather than retreat to the club house for a well-earned celebration, however, Curiosity and the team stayed busy in Sol 2225, doing Mastcam and ChemCam imaging of the new drill hole and tailings. This was in preparation for the weekend plan, in which there’ll be further imaging and ChemCam LIBS on the drill hole, and samples will be dropped off to CheMin for further analysis.

In addition, there’s a packed program of environmental science over the next few sols, now that we’re back to full science operations. The global dust storm may have decayed, but we’re still interested in seeing whether the post-storm atmosphere differs compared to the same season in previous Mars years when no big storm occurred. Also, we’re still in the middle of southern summer, which means lots of ‘dust devils’ (dust-filled convective vortices) and more dust than usual in the atmosphere. So in addition to our regular meteorological (REMS), radiation (RAD), and sub-surface (DAN) monitoring, we added atmospheric opacity measurements and a 360° dust devil survey into tosol‘s plan. Over the weekend, alongside the drill sample analysis, there will be a bumper crop of atmospheric activities. These include characterizing the amount and size distribution of dust and water ice aerosols at different times of sol, in and above the crater, by means of a Mastcam ‘sky survey’ and opacity measurements, a ChemCam ‘passive sky’ activity, and Navcam cloud movies. We’ll also take a dust devil movie as well as two more dust devil surveys.

And finally, over the next few sols we’ll be watching those drill tailings to see how quickly the martian wind moves them away and in what direction. We’ll also be taking ‘change detection’ images of below the rover with MARDI, and of nearby grains and ripples with Mastcam, again to see what the wind is doing at this time of year in our current location on the slope of Aeolis Mons.

Written by Claire Newman, Atmospheric Scientist, Aeolis Research