28 April 2019

Sol 2393-2394: Putting the L in MSL

Posted by Ryan Anderson

Today’s main activities use the ‘laboratory’ instruments SAM and CheMin inside of Curiosity to analyze some of the powder from the Kilmarie drill hole. SAM will do an Evolved Gas Analysis, which involves heating the sample and measuring the gases that are generated, and CheMin will do its usual analysis, shining x-rays through the sample to determine what minerals are present. Power was on the low side today, and initially we thought there wouldn’t be much of a chance to do other science, but our resourceful team was able to fit two small science blocks into the plan.

On sol 2393 the afternoon science block is dedicated to atmospheric observations. Navcam will watch for dust devils and clouds, and Mastcam will look at the sun and the sky to figure out how much dust is in the atmosphere and what its properties are.

On Sol 2394, Navcam will do two more dust devil surveys, and then ChemCam will take over. ChemCam will do a passive (no laser) observation of the Kilmarie drill tailings, and then will zap two bedrock targets, ‘Tolmount’ and ‘Tiffany,’ to continue to document the variable bedrock chemistry in the area. Mastcam will then take a picture documenting the two ChemCam targets.

We won’t be done with SAM and CheMin after today’s plan: we expect to continue to analyze the Kilmarie samples for several more days. These laboratory analyses drain a lot of power, but they really tell us a lot about the rocks we’re sitting on. Especially for these drill samples in the ‘clay-bearing’ unit that we’ve been striving to reach since landing, it’s worth taking our time to do things right!

Written by Ryan Anderson, Planetary Geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center