19 April 2019

Sol 2383 – 2385: Drill all the rocks!

Posted by Ryan Anderson

Yestersol‘s drill pre-load test was successful, so today we are go for a drill attempt at ‘Kilmarie!’ The front hazcam image from yesterday’s test (shown above) is a helpful visual for understanding how close our new drill location will be to the last drill at ‘Aberlady.’ In this image, you can see Curiosity resting the point of the drill on the future Kilmarie drill target along with the old Aberlady drill hole, a little to the left of the arm. It’s been a while since we’ve drilled two locations so close together! Avid readers of this blog will recall we decided to drill again in this area because we saw some irregularities during drilling Aberlady. Specifically, we weren’t sure we’d collected enough drill material for both CheMin and SAM analyses at the Aberlady location, so we’re hoping we can be more confident in the amount of sample we collect at Kilmarie.

I was staffed in the role of Surface Properties Scientist (SPS) during planning yesterday and today. One of my responsibilities as SPS is to help assess whether the terrain Curiosity is parked on is stable. Curiosity’s arm is so big and heavy that moving it causes the rover’s center of gravity to shift. If Curiosity isn’t firmly parked, moving the arm could inadvertently move the entire ~1 ton rover, which could result in hardware damage. Yesterday, we determined Curiosity had parked on a flat surface and five of the wheels were firmly in contact with the ground. However, the right front wheel appeared to be sitting on a very small rock (~2-3 cm) that was located right in the middle of the wheel. We had a lot of conversations about what the risk of the vehicle slipping was and whether we thought the rock we were sitting on might shift. Using our experience testing similar situations in the Mars Yard at JPL and knowledge of properties of the terrain around the rover, we decided the risk we’d slip was very small, and gave the ‘OK’ to go ahead with arm activities. Images taken before and after the drill pre-load yesterday confirmed we hadn’t moved at all and were correct in our assessment.

Written by Abigail Fraeman, Planetary Geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory