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Curiosity Mission Updates

NASA Mars Rover Curiosity: Mission Updates. Provided by mission team members from USGS Astrogeology Science Center

Sol 1543: Motor controller fault

December 07, 2016 - Wednesday

The Sol 1542 drill diagnostics did not complete as intended, and as a consequence, neither did some of the later science activities.  Therefore, those tests and activities from Sol 1542 will be planned again on Sol 1543.  But first, ChemCam will shoot its laser at a target near Hunters Beach, called "Bracy Cove," and at the bright layers just above The Anvil.  Late in the afternoon, ChemCam will perform a routine observation of its titanium calibration target, the Left Mastcam will acquire a 5x1 mosaic of "Squid Cove," and the Rear Hazcam will take another image to look for changes due to winds.  Overnight, SAM will perform an Opportunistic Derivitization experiment on a sample from Cumberland that we’ve been carrying since early in the landed mission.  This experiment has been some time in the making and should improve SAM's ability to characterize the organic molecules within that sample.  Early in the morning of Sol 1544, Navcam will search for clouds and dust devils, Mastcam will measure dust in the atmosphere, and both cameras will re-attempt the photometry observations that were planned yesterday. 

by Ken Herkenhoff

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.


Sol 1542: More drill testing

December 06, 2016 - Tuesday

While investigation of the drill anomaly continues, more diagnostic tests will be performed on Sol 1542.  Again, no mobility or other arm activities will be planned, so the science team added only remote sensing observations.  ChemCam will observe Hunters Beach again to further investigate the the chemical variations that LIBS measured there previously.  ChemCam and the Right Mastcam will also observe bedrock targets "Sargent Mountain" and "Youngs Mountain."  Finally, Navcam and Mastcam will take one more set of images at 8 AM on Sol 1543, to complete the photometry dataset started on Sol 1537. 

by Ken Herkenhoff

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.


Sol 1541: Change detection

December 05, 2016 - Monday

Sol 1539 Mastcam Ireson Hill

The weekend plan returned some great remote sensing data, including the above Mastcam image of "Ireson Hill" to investigate the stratigraphy exposed in a distant butte. While we work on assessing the drill fault, the team decided to devote today’s plan to remote sensing and change detection.  The plan starts with ChemCam observations of “Hunters Beach” and “Gorham Mountain” to investigate the chemistry of the Murray bedrock.  Then we’ll acquire a Mastcam tau and crater rim extinction image to characterize the amount of dust in the atmosphere, followed by a Navcam dust devil search.  The plan also includes a series of Hazcam observations taken approximately every hour until sunset – this will provide a very thorough dataset to monitor the movement of sand based on time of day.  This is really important for planning MAHLI observations, because we’ve noticed a lot of movement of fines through this area at this time of year, and we’ve mostly been taking MAHLI images with the dust cover closed to protect the instrument.  If we can better understand when and where the sand is most active, we can better plan MAHLI observations, and we can improve our understanding of the eolian environment!

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.


Sols 1538-1540: Targeted Remote Sensing

December 02, 2016 - Friday

Sol 1536 Navcam

The RPs are going to take a little more time to diagnose the drill fault before we drive or use the arm again, so today’s plan is focused on targeted remote sensing.  We’re still at the “Precipice” site, assessing the composition and sedimentary structures in the Murray bedrock and carrying out some long distance observations.  Today’s plan includes a long distance ChemCam RMI mosaic to monitor linear features observed from HiRISE and another RMI mosaic to investigate the stratigraphy exposed in a butte called “Ireson Hill.”  The plan also includes a Mastcam mosaic to search for fracture patterns in the vicinity of “Squid Cove,” and a Mastcam clast survey for change detection.

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.


Sol 1537: Drill fault

December 01, 2016 - Thursday

Unfortunately, the much-anticipated rotary-only drilling experiment did not even start due to a drill fault that is currently being investigated.  This type of drill fault appears to be unrelated to the previous short circuits during percussion, but more study is needed.  So the tactical planning team had to scramble to put together a plan while the drill experts work to recover from this anomaly.  Luckily, the fault did not preclude non-drilling arm activities, so we picked the bright target "Thomas Bay" for contact science.  We were also able to fit a lot of remote science observations into the plan:  A Navcam cloud movie, a Right Mastcam mosaic of "Squid Cove," Mastcam measurements of dust in the atmosphere, and a small Mastcam stereo mosaic of "Baldwin Corners."  At various times of day, Navcam and Mastcam will image the ground toward and opposite the azimuth of sunset to measure the photometric (light scattering) properties of the rocks and soils near the rover.  ChemCam and the Right Mastcam will also observe bedrock target "Compass Harbor" and vein targets "Bartlett Narrows" and "Birch Point."  After drill diagnostics are performed, more Mastcam dust measurements and images of "Hulls Cove" and "Big Heath" are planned.  It was a busy day for me and the other MAHLI uplink leads, as we had to modify our command sequences to take images with MAHLI's dust cover closed and find the best time to take images in full sunlight.  Since the fine-grained Sebina sample was dumped, we are concerned about material blowing onto MAHLI's lens and sticking to it.  Finally, the APXS will be placed on Thomas Bay for an overnight integration. 

by Ken Herkenhoff

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.


Sol 1536: Drilling "Precipice"

November 30, 2016 - Wednesday

The cross-contamination experiment and cleaning of CHIMRA went well, so we are ready to drill into the Precipice target!  Past drilling activities have made use of both rotation and percussion, but percussion has caused intermittent short circuits occasionally since Sol 911, so on Sol 1536 we will test the ability of the drill to acquire a sample using rotation only, without percussion.  We expect that the Precipice target is soft enough that the experiment will go well, but of course we won't know until we try!  Drilling and associated imaging will require enough power and time that additional observations could not be added to the plan. 

by Ken Herkenhoff

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.


Sol 1535: Cross-contamination experiment

November 29, 2016 - Tuesday

The current drill campaign continues to go smoothly, and the Sol 1535 plan is dominated by an experiment to see if any Sebina sample material is left inside the drill bit chamber from the previous drilling.  This is motivated by the fact that we only used vibration to transfer that sample from the drill bit assembly into CHIMRA, rather than also using percussion.  So it’s a “cross-contamination experiment” designed to see if the vibration didn’t do a complete job back when we first drilled Sebina.  Lots of images of the sieve and other parts of CHIMRA will be taken to verify that the system is clean.  These activities will take a fair amount of time and power, but we were able to squeeze a few remote science observations into the plan:  ChemCam will shoot its laser at bedrock targets named "West Tremont" and "Eastern Head," and the Right Mastcam will image the same targets.  The Left Mastcam will also examine fracture patterns at "Sawyer's Cove."  Finally, Navcam will search for clouds north of the rover.  If all goes well, drilling will be planned tomorrow!

by Ken Herkenhoff


Sol 1534: Preparing to drill

November 28, 2016 - Monday

Sol 1533 Front Hazcam

Curiosity had a productive Thanksgiving weekend and now we are getting ready to drill at “Precipice.”  Sol 1534 begins with MAHLI imaging of the post-sieve dump pile from the previous drill sample (“Sebina”).  Then we have a short science block to acquire a ChemCam passive observation and a Mastcam multispectral observation of the dump pile.  In the afternoon the plan includes a CHIMRA “thwack” activity to clean out any remnants of the previous sample in order to prepare for a new one.  Later in the afternoon we’ll also take a ChemCam long distance RMI mosaic to investigate a linear feature observed from HiRISE.  The full drill hole is planned for Sol 1536.

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.


Sols 1531-1533: Thanksgiving at Precipice

November 23, 2016 - Wednesday

Sol 1526 Mastcam image

Today’s plan covers sols 1531-1533, which will take us through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. We are in place at our next drill location “Precipice” so there will be no driving in the plan, just a lot of science and preparation for drilling!

Sol 1531 will start off with ChemCam observations of Precipice as well as the targets “Frenchman Bay” and “Hunter’s Beach”, followed by Mastcam documentation of all three targets. I also managed to fit a request for some Navcams of Mt. Sharp in the Sol 1531 science block to enable some long distance RMI observations next week. After the science block, the rover will do the “pre-load test” on our drilling target to improve the accuracy of the drill next week. Precipice will also be brushed off, and APXS will settle in for an overnight measurement.

On Sol 1532, Mastcam starts off with an observation of the distant foothills of Mt. Sharp, multispectral imaging of the Precipice target (along with the associated calibration target), and imaging of the rover deck to watch for changes in the sand and dust that have collected there. Mastcam will also take a stereo image of the location where the previous drill sample will be dumped. ChemCam has an observation of a target called “Breakneck Pond” which will then be documented by Mastcam. We will round out the science block with Mastcam and Navcam atmospheric observations. Finally, on Sol 1533, we will dump out our previous drill sample and do an APXS measurement on the dump pile.

While the rover is busy with all of that, the Americans on the MSL team will be celebrating Thanksgiving, and thinking about how thankful we are that we get to work on such an amazing project with such great colleagues!

by Ryan Anderson

-Ryan is a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the ChemCam team on MSL.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the martian environment, communication relays and rover status


Sols 1528-1530: Fifteen Kilometers!

November 22, 2016 - Tuesday

Sol 1526 Navcam

Our weekend plan went as expected, including a ~16 meter drive which brings us to our next drill target: “Precipice”. That drive also brings our total drive distance from Bradbury Landing to just over 15 km! We have a three sol plan today as we head into the long holiday weekend and prepare for drilling next week.

On Sol 1528, Mastcam has a 3x10 mosaic to provide context for the drill site, followed by ChemCam images of the drill bit and a MARDI twilight image of the ground beneath the rover. On the following sol, Navcam and Mastcam start the day with a set of atmospheric observations to watch for dust devils and measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere. After that, ChemCam has a passive sky observation, followed by active measurements of the targets “Thomas Bay”, “The Anvil”, and “The Ovens”. Mastcam then has a change detection observation on the targets “Hulls Cove” and “Big Heath” along with documentation of the ChemCam targets, including the AEGIS target from sol 1526. Mastcam and Navcam will then repeat some of the atmospheric observations from the morning.

In contrast to our busy Sol 1529, sol 1530 will be relatively quiet, with a focus on downlinking data and our normal background data collection from REMS and DAN.

by Ryan Anderson

-Ryan is a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the ChemCam team on MSL.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the martian environment, communication relays and rover status


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