22 May 2019
Curiosity is investigating an area that is very high in potassium, and we’re trying to characterize the distribution and the source of that potassium. Yesterday we did a short drive to get one of these potassium-rich rocks into our workspace – ‘Grampian Mountains.’ While this target isn’t viable for drilling, it is a good example of this potassium-rich area, which is now in our workspace (See image). We’ll be starting out with some contact science (APXS and MAHLI) on the target. After the arm activities, there is a long targeted science block with ChemCam and Mastcam of several targets, including Grampian Mountains. ‘Annbank’ and (to a lesser extent) ‘Brimmond’ have similarities to the Woodland Bay block that was examined on sol 2359 (and which might be another possible drill target), so we’re examining them to make a comparison. Our fourth target is ‘Balintore,’ which is part of our systematic bedrock survey; we’re looking for more potassium-rich bedrock.
After finishing up the science observations at this location, Curiosity will be heading toward what we hope is our next drill location, target ‘Hallaig’; Hallaig rock was already identified by ChemCam as being potassium-rich. The rover planner evaluation looks promising for drilling, though it is still unclear from remote sensing how representative Hallaig is of this general area. The rover planners are able to turn and drive straight to this target; the terrain is benign enough that the parking requirements for drilling are not highly constraining. Our post-drive imaging will include high-quality color imaging of two spots on the rock to help us evaluate them for possible drilling. If things look good, we may be drilling as early as the weekend!
Written by Ashley Stroupe, Mission Operations Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory