11 September 2019
The focus of Curiosity’s activities since returning to operations after conjunction, now that Mars has safely moved out from behind the sun, is to finish up the analyses associated with the drilling campaign at ‘Glen Etive 1.’ Yestersol we planned to dump drill fines from the drill bit assembly (DBA) and the analyses of those fines with APXS (for chemistry) and MAHLI (for close up colour and texture), as well as obtaining MAHLI images of the drill hole and associated fines surrounding the hole (tailings). The MAHLI images of the drill tailings allowed us to choose the best location on the tailings to analyze with APXS in the plan tosol. We are interested in comparing the chemistry of the tailings, versus the DBA fines, versus the brushed surface prior to drilling to look for variations in composition with depth. We may have intersected different layers during drilling; the tailings are typically derived from the top 2 cm of the drill hole, while the DBA fines are derived from the lower several cms. More MAHLI imaging of the the drill hole was also planned, including angled night time imaging down the hole to look for any obvious layering or veins. In the Payload Uplink/Downlink role for the APXS instrument tosol, I was involved in helping to select where to place APXS, working with the rover arm engineers at JPL in Pasadena, as well as being responsible for delivering the commands to our instrument to execute the measurement.
Because the current, as well as upcoming activities require substantial power the geology group decided not to plan any further science observations tosol, thereby conserving power. However, the environmental group planned the normal cadence of background REMS and DAN passive measurements. Standard RAD measurements were also planned.
The team is looking forward to wrapping up here at Glen Etive 1 and drilling another hole close by to enable a more detailed study of this material with the internal rover laboratory instruments, CheMin and SAM.
See this video for an explanation of conjunction: Conjunction explanation ›
Written by Lucy Thompson, Planetary Geologist at University of New Brunswick