MISSION UPDATES | January 2, 2020

Sol 2634: Happy New Year From Mars!

Written by Lucy Thompson, Planetary Geologist at University of New Brunswick
Curiosity’s workspace at the top of Western Butte for the next few sols.

Navcam left image: Curiosity’s workspace at the top of Western Butte for the next few sols. Note the dark, angular blocks resting on the paler, in-place bedrock and the more resistant rock layer capping the slope in the background, behind Western Butte. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The two MRO passes that should have downlinked the data from Curiosity’s New Year activities, to enable planning today, got delayed during processing on the ground. We did not get the images of our workspace until just prior to when we were supposed to deliver our plan. The Tactical Uplink Lead for the day gave us permission to delay delivery, and the team efficiently managed to add two targeted ChemCam analyses of bedrock (“Ben Eighe” and “Braid Hills”), with accompanying Mastcam documentation imaging. The rest of the plan was filled with untargeted environmental observations including ChemCam passive sky, a Navcam dust devil survey and cloud movie observations, as well as the standard REMS, DAN and RAD activities. A SAM scrubber clean and transfer data were also included, following on from SAM atmospheric measurements over the holiday period. Finally, a Navcam 3x1 mosaic was planned, which should facilitate targeting with Mastcam and the ChemCam Remote Micro-imager in upcoming plans.

The planned drive from the previous sol executed flawlessly, resulting in a stunning view of the top of Western Butte, and a workspace strewn with dark angular float rocks (not in place), on top of the paler, in-place bedrock. The previous workspace had also included intact bedrock with dark, angular float rocks. We received closer up images and compositional data for some of these float rocks over the holidays, revealing some interesting similarities to rocks encountered a lot earlier in the mission. The geologists are trying to figure out the relationship of the dark, angular blocks to the in-place bedrock, and intact darker, resistant, capping rock observed at the top of slopes immediately behind Western Butte. Everyone is excited to be able to continue to investigate the bedrock and float rock at this location, as well as to document the view afforded to Curiosity from this vantage point near the top of Western Butte.