17 December 2018
At the end of last week, the team made the call to drill the rock ‘Rock Hall,’ and Curiosity had no problems drilling the target. The science team had been worried that this rock type, red Jura, might be particularly hard based on the observation that it commonly caps the highs on Vera Rubin Ridge. However, the drill reached its full commanded depth on our first attempt, and we are celebrating!
Today, the team planned a portioning test to make sure that there is sample powder in the drill and that it comes out in reliable volumes when Curiosity shakes its arm. This is the next step before delivering sample to the CheMin instrument for mineralogical analysis. The rover planners included an extra portioning activity consisting of sample delivery to one of SAM‘s sample inlets with the cover closed. Based on prior SAM data, it appears that samples delivered to SAM are smaller than those delivered to the ground. By delivering sample to the closed inlet and then imaging the result, the team can get a better estimate of sample volumes delivered to SAM. This extra test will help us better plan future sample deliveries to SAM.
Tosol‘s plan also includes ChemCam analyses of the drill hole and tailings, in addition to the rock target ‘Arnage.’ Mastcam will image Arnage as well as the sample portions dropped from the drill. Environmental monitoring fills out the plan.
Although drilling proceeded without a hitch, there was an issue with the Remote Sensing Mast near the end of the weekend plan, and the Mastcam mosaic of ‘Lairig Ghru’ was lost as were two environmental observations. The engineering team evaluated the issue and concluded that it is safe to proceed with use of all instruments. The loss of these activities was identified late in planning due to a delay in data delivery, so they were not replanned today. They will be captured in future plans.
Rock Hall is our 19th drilled sample of Mars and the last one we are planning for Vera Rubin Ridge. We are really pleased with the outstanding data Curiosity has collected for us here, and many team members are preparing abstracts to present results at the annual Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conference early next year.
Written by Dawn Sumner, Planetary Geologist at University of California Davis