16 July 2019
Curiosity finished up our investigation at Harlaw Rise on the weekend, and commenced our drive to an area we are (informally) calling the ‘Southern Outcrop,’ another of the ridge features that are so prominent in this part of Glen Torridon. This drive was split into a number of shorter drive segments. Our weekend drive brought us to a very rubbly workspace, with lots of small pebbles. These pebbles may be small but are geochemically interesting and add to our understanding of the geology here, so we are analyzing a pebble (about 4 cm along its long axis) called ‘Paible,’ before continuing on our way southward. APXS and ChemCam will both investigate the chemistry, and Mastcam and MAHLI will take colour images, giving us a full suite of observations to help with interpretation of this target. Mastcam will be taking a large image of an area of brighter rocks called ‘Sandside Harbor’ at the Southern Outcrop.
Post-drive imaging of the new workspace will support contact science if we find ourselves in an interesting location, and a routine end of drive image of the ground at the back of the front left wheel will catalog changes in rock, soil and pebble populations. On the night of the second sol, CheMin will do some routine housekeeping activities ahead of a potential drill campaign, atop the Southern Outcrop in the coming weeks.
The Environmental Theme Group (ENV) has, as always, planned a very full suite of environmental monitoring activities, to run across the two-sol plan. A suite of Navcam movies will be taken to document clouds, variations in optical depth and winds in Gale crater – a ‘zenith’ movie will look upwards, a ‘suprahorizon’ movie will monitor clouds to the south of the rover, and a ‘dust-devil’ movie will attempt to track wind vortices, which can give us information on surface heating and winds near the surface. At the top of each and every hour and in a series of extended hour-long measurements, the Rover Environmental Monitoring System (REMS) acquires temperature, pressure, humidity, and UV radiation measurements. DAN (Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons) continues its search for subsurface hydrogen, with frequent passive (utilizing cosmic rays as a source of neutrons to measure hydrogen) and post-drive active (actively shooting neutrons from the rover) measurements
Written by Catherine O’Connell, Planetary Geologist at University of New Brunswick-Cooper