29 July 2019

Sol 2481: On the Lookout for a Drill Site

Posted by Ryan Anderson

After a successful ascent to the top of the southern outcrop in the ‘Visionarium,’ we are now searching for our next drill site. There were no bedrock exposures available for contact science activities in our immediate workspace, so our first order of business today was to identify a drill site area that we will drive to in today’s plan.

There are a number of factors we considered when selecting this drill site. We looked for bedrock that looked ‘in-place,’ meaning bedrock that likely has not been moved since it formed. While there can be ‘out-of-place’ rocks (or ‘float’ rocks) that are interesting, in-place bedrock can be more stable for drilling and its geologic context is simpler to interpret. We also prioritized larger bedrock exposures, as we need room to drill, discard, and analyze the sample. The size of the bedrock slab is even more important than usual at this location because we may consider drilling a second time and delivering sample for a possible SAM wet chemistry experiment. Lastly, we considered other practical constraints, like finding an area that gives us a good parking position and a level surface to drill on. Considering all of these factors, we identified several candidate sites and finally decided to drive to a relatively flat slab that is visible in the right portion of the above image.

With the major drive decision out of the way, we then proceeded to plan the rest of the observations at our current location. Since we weren’t doing contact science, we obtained some extra time for remote sensing activities and planned three ChemCam measurements of some nearby bedrock (‘Blaven,’ ‘Glen Lyon,’ ‘Glen Orchy’). We also planned a large Mastcam mosaic of the bedrock exposures in front of us, dubbed the ‘Hebrides’ region, which we imaged in the previous plan from a different angle. Imaging this area before we drive up to our drill site will help us examine sedimentary structures and provide context for our future drill sample. In addition to these observations, we also planned a suite of atmospheric observations including Navcam dust devil movies, crater rim extinction, and Mastcam tau observations. There is much to look forward to in the upcoming days, with the start of our next drill campaign and excellent views from our future parking spot!

Written by Vivian Sun, Planetary Geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory