MAHLI works the night shift: Sols 3837-3838
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) May 24, 2023
Earth planning date: Monday, May 22, 2023- Curiosity successfully wrapped up the “Ubajara” drill campaign over the weekend with some imaging of the drill tailings. This Monday, we are planning two sols (Mars days) of activities to finish up at Ubajara before driving off in the coming sols. Most targeted science today is focused on bedrock target “Apetina,” which is situated on the same block as our previous Ubajara drill target.
We start off with Navcam and Mastcam line-of-sight observations to assess the dust content in the atmosphere. ChemCam will use its laser to ablate and analyze soil target “Salamangone” with a technique called laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). ChemCam will also acquire a series of images with its Remote Micro-Imager to form a mosaic of upper Gediz Vallis ridge from a distance.
Curiosity will use its Dust Removal Tool (DRT) to first brush away the ever-present Martian dust coating Apetina, so other instruments can get a better look at the composition and features of the actual underlying bedrock. Mastcam will take lots of images after brushing the target to determine and document the success of the dust removal. Then, MAHLI will have a look at the brushed target, and APXS will analyze the elemental composition of Apetina with a combination of X-rays and alpha particles in the evening. Today was my first solo shift as the APXS Payload Uplink/Downlink Lead, so as operations wrap up, I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of our APXS data from Apetina! Later, after the Sun has set on Mars, MAHLI will have a second look at Apetina – this time at night with LEDs rather than sunlight to illuminate the surface. As the original MAHLI PI once explained, “MAHLI’s white light illumination capabilities will be used to create glints, reduce shadows, create shadows, and thereby enhance observation of crystal faces.”
The second sol of our plan is full of observations of nearby bedrock, the distant crater rim, and the Martian atmosphere. Mastcam kicks things off on the second sol with some more imaging of Apetina and an extension of its mosaic of the local terrain surrounding Curiosity. ChemCam will then use the LIBS technique once more to investigate the surface of nearby bedrock target “Zipaquira” and investigate potential signs of past alteration. ChemCam’s last observation of this plan will be a mosaic looking toward “Peace Vallis,” located along the distant rim of Gale crater. Curiosity will also investigate the Martian atmosphere with a Mastcam Sky Survey and Navcam Dust Devil Survey.
Wrapping up at Ubajara: Sols 3834-3836
by Conor Hayes, Planetary Scientist at York University
Pasadena CA (JPL) May 24 – Earth planning date: Friday, May 19, 2023. Today was what we call a “late slide” planning day, meaning that we started 90 minutes later than usual – 9:30 AM at JPL, or 12:30 PM for me here in Toronto. This change was necessitated by the fact that the data we needed to go ahead with planning wasn’t scheduled to be downlinked from Mars to Earth until just after 9 AM PDT, well after our usual 8 AM PDT start time.
The biggest question coming into today’s plan was whether or not the SAM team wanted to go ahead with their Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) experiment on the Ubajara sample after getting the results from the Evolved Gas Analysis (EGA) performed in Wednesday’s plan. After taking a look at the EGA data between Wednesday and today, SAM decided not to proceed with GCMS. SAM activities consume a significant amount of the rover’s battery charge, so removing GCMS from today’s plan meant that we got some extra time to do other science. It also means that we will be wrapping up our time here at Ubajara just a little earlier than scheduled, so this weekend will be one of our last opportunities to take a look at this location before continuing to drive uphill.
On the first sol, we begin by extending our Mastcam mosaic of this location to document as much of the area as we can while we’re still here, before turning Mastcam to look up Gediz Vallis in the direction that we will eventually be driving. ChemCam will then zap the target “Jutica” with LIBS, taking before and after images with its RMI camera. Post-LIBS, Jutica will be imaged by Mastcam. ChemCam RMI will also take a mosaic of “Peace Vallis,” an old river valley that deposited material on the crater floor near our 2012 landing site. Once that is wrapped up, we will dump the Ubajara sample now that it is no longer needed by SAM. Finally, MAHLI and APXS will take a look at the Ubajara drill hole tailings.
The second sol’s science begins with a number of Navcam environmental science activities, including a Line-of-Sight observation of the rim of Gale Crater to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, a Navcam cloud movie, and a survey for dust devils around the rover. LIBS and RMI will then turn their attention to Ilha Grande, which we have targeted with a number of instruments during our stay here at Ubajara. Mastcam will also image the drill boresight and bit assembly to assess their condition following the Ubajara drill campaign. APXS will conduct an overnight observation to characterize seasonal changes in the amount of argon in the Martian atmosphere.
The final sol is dedicated to a number of ChemCam activities, starting with another LIBS/RMI observation, this time of “Walterlandia.” We then spend some time taking passive spectra of the sky to examine atmospheric aerosol properties as well as atmospheric abundances of oxygen and water vapor to complement the APXS overnight observations.
This plan wraps up with our usual weekend suite of early-morning atmospheric monitoring activities from the ENV team. This includes two Navcam movies to look for clouds above Gale and a Navcam 360 survey to characterize the microphysical properties of those clouds. We will also be measuring the amount of dust in the atmosphere above and within Gale with Mastcam and Navcam observations of the crater rim and the Sun. As always, REMS and RAD will spend this plan monitoring the weather and the radiation environment.