Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image acquired on Sol 1993, March 16, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 1994 science tasks.

Reports Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist for Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland: “As we drive east across the top of Vera Rubin Ridge – backwards no less! – we encountered another nice patch of bedrock in Curiosity’s workspace.”

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 1993, March 16, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

That encounter motivated multiple observations before the robot hits the road once again.


Small crystals

The bedrock in front of Curiosity resembled that which was studied on Sol 1991 where the rover imaged the target “Seaforth Head” – that target exhibits small crystals like the ones found at the “Jura” outcrop, “and we hoped that today’s workspace might turn up more crystals,” Minitti adds. “To look for them, we planned a Mastcam M100 mosaic over a wide swath of the workspace.”

Coordinated observations

A more detailed assessment of the bedrock will include coordinated observations of the gray bedrock target “Stirling Castle” with the robot’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS), and its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 1991, March 13, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This target’s name also gave team members a chance to honor one of the rover planners operating the rover: Stirling Algermissen!

ChemCam was on tap to acquire a second raster on “Dunottar,” bedrock that is rough and reddish at its base and smooth and gray at its top, Minitti explains.


Far away targets

ChemCam will be kept very busy imaging far away targets and the sky using overlapping Remote Micro Imager (RMI) photos of Peace Vallis. They will be acquired in an effort to combine them into a single image of higher resolution.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1991, March 13, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

As was done on Sols 1986-1987, the rover will image the yardang unit on the flank of Mt. Sharp with two long distance RMI mosaics. “These mosaics will help us increase our understanding of the internal structure of this unit. Just as we often use ChemCam in passive mode to look at the spectroscopic signature of rocks around us, in this plan we will use that same mode to look at the sky,” Minitti points out.

Aerosols and trace gases

ChemCam passive observations of the sky allow Mars researchers to estimate concentrations of aerosols and trace gases in the atmosphere. To ensure the passive sky observation is well-calibrated, ChemCam will acquire passive spectra from the ChemCam calibration targets both before and after the sky observation.

Curiosity Mastcam Right photo taken on Sol 1991, March 13, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS



The atmosphere will get more attention after the rover drives roughly 115 feet (35 meters), with images to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere and movies that seek out clouds.

Curiosity’s APXS will also get its turn, measuring the amount of atmospheric Argon as the turret remains stowed on the night of Sol 1994, Minitti concludes.

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