NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater has just begun Sol 3784 duties.
For the robot, it has been a picture perfect Day…or to be more exact, a day perfect for taking pictures, reports Catherine O’Connell-Cooper, a planetary geologist at University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
“Due to some delayed downlink of images, we didn’t receive all the information we needed in time to do contact science today,” notes O’Connell-Cooper, detailing Sol 3783-3784 activities.
“Although the data did eventually arrive, it was too late to allow us to get the arm out for contact science. Each planning day has a very strict timeline, in order to make our scheduled uplink time,” O’Connell-Cooper adds, which is Curiosity’s allotted time for using the Deep Space Network to get a team plan up to the rover.
“Planning contact science targets takes most of the first two hours of work on any given day,” O’Connell-Cooper adds, “so the three hour delay before the data was processed would likely have resulted in us missing our uplink slot – a rare occurrence for the super efficient MSL [Mars Science Lab] team, and one we aim to avoid at all costs!”
Instead, researchers decided to make it an imaging day, and lean heavily on the Mastcam and Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) teams, characterizing the area around the rover and beyond.
Mastcam was slated to take several small mosaics (e.g., 2 rows of 2 images, or 2 rows of 4 images) and ChemCam will use its Remote Micro Imager (RMI). On the far right of the robot’s workspace, Mastcam will image “Tacuiquene,” a block with nodules and laminations, “which seems to be a float from along our future drive path, so we will get a taste of what is to come,” O’Connell-Cooper points out. “There are a lot of vein features in this area, so both ChemCam and Mastcam will be looking at these.”
Close to the rover, ChemCam is using Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) to analyze some of these raised veins at “Jauaperi” which will also be imaged by Mastcam.
Just above this, Mastcam was set to image the strata or layers in the target “Cauame.” Further afield, Mastcam will image a large vein feature at “Los Azulitas” and reimage the veiny target “Cano Macareo” from a slightly different, closer perspective than the previous mosaic.
“A small grey float “Cerra Duida” will get the most attention today – ChemCam will image this with the RMI (which gets very detailed images from a distance), take a “passive” measurement (i.e., not using the LIBS laser), and Mastcam will take a multispectral image of the target,” O’Connell-Cooper reports. “We have analyzed quite a few of these grey floats in recent weeks, and the team is interested in learning more about them.”
A recent drive by the rover was to be a relatively short one of 65 feet (20 meters or so).
“The driving in this area is slow going. Rather than regular flat bedrock, we are facing rocks sticking out from sand patches with float stones loose on the surface. Some of the bedrock slabs here also move when driven on, such as today’s Mastcam target “Nosan Mountain” – providing quite the obstacle course for the rover planners to pick through,” O’Connell-Cooper concludes.