11 February 2019
Similar to its namesake in Scotland, the Glen Torridon area on Mars affords us stunning vistas, but in our case, of the relatively low-lying clay bearing (from orbit) unit flanked to the north by the higher ground of the Vera Rubin Ridge and to the south, by Mount Sharp. We have been capturing the views with our cameras, Mastcam, Navcam and Front Hazcam and stopping for a taste of what this area has to offer by analyzing the local terrain with our suite of contact science instruments, as well as with ChemCam and Mastcam. The plan tosol is no exception.
The drive we took over the weekend, went off without a hitch and placed us on one of the few examples of more coherent, in-place bedrock exposures in the area. As such, we decided to put the brakes on and take some time to investigate in more detail. We will deploy the arm to first brush a typical area of this bedrock ‘Curlew,’ in an attempt to remove as much of the Mars surface dust as possible, before taking some close-up images of the target with MAHLI and then analyzing it for chemistry with APXS. The arm will also place us to take close up MAHLI images and obtain chemistry with APXS of another slightly different looking area (colour and texture) of exposed bedrock (‘Gannet’). To complement these observations, we also planned ChemCam LIBS on the ‘Gannet’ target, and Mastcam multispectral observations to cover both targets to look for spectral variations across the outcrop. ChemCam will also investigate the composition of 2 other bedrock targets (‘Beryl’ and ‘Ladyburn’), and a pebble target (‘Southness’) with LIBS and we will increase our colour image coverage of this exposure with Mastcam. DAN active and passive measurements were also included to investigate the distribution of subsurface hydrogen in the bedrock and regolith.
We also planned a large Mastcam mosaic to capture the view out the front window. It will include the cliffs of the Vera Rubin Ridge as well as the drive direction, which is a mixture of rubbly rock and sand and low-lying bedrock exposures, one of which (‘Midland Valley’) we hope to drive to next.
The data we collect will help us to compare the Glen Torridon area with other regions we have encountered on the mission; specifically the rocks we analyzed on the Vera Rubin Ridge, as well as the other Murray formation sedimentary rocks we encountered prior to the Vera Rubin Ridge. It will also allow us to place this area in context as we continue to climb Mount Sharp.
Curiosity is also monitoring the environment as she tours Glen Torridon. We included standard background REMS activities that monitor the daily martian weather, two Navcam dust devil movies and a Navcam dust devil survey. We also continue to monitor the radiation environment with RAD.
A fun, busy day of planning on Mars with lots of great observations. Not only did I monitor planning activities in order to write this blog, but I also got to choose some of the targets we ended up analyzing, and as the APXS payload uplink and downlink lead, I am in the process of preparing the commands that will be sent to the rover to execute our planned measurements on Mars. I also got to check that our instrument was healthy and ready for planning today after the weekend activities.
Written by Lucy Thompson, Planetary Geologist at University of New Brunswick