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Sols 3948-3949: A Rocky Road, or Two!
This image was taken by Front Hazard Avoidance Camera (Front Hazcam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3946. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
Sols 3948-3949: A Rocky Road, or Two!
by Susanne Schwenzer, Planetary Geologist at The Open University
Pasadena CA (JPL) Sep 13, 2023

Earth planning date: Wednesday, September 13, 2023: Our view out of the window, in this case the front hazard camera, is spectacular today, as you can see above. Regular readers of the mission updates will know that this rocky road has caused us problems in our driving lately, but today it all went smoothly. We are planning another 30 metre drive in today's plan, so let's hope Mars will read the script (and agree to it!). While we are planning, this blogger needed some sugar... and so I am looking at two rocky roads, one on Mars, and one dropping chocolate all over my computer (shhht, don't tell anyone!). The Martian one clearly looks more beautiful, though, and I once again imagine what it would be like to walk up that hill, look at the layering in the walls.

In the current parking position, we have entered a new quad of the map, the Bishop quad named after the small town of Bishop. Bishop lies in the shadow of California's Sierra Nevada mountain range, and is the starting point of many trips into the high Sierras from the east. That means, we have a large range of new names themed after the Sierras at our disposal. Curiosity will take an APXS and MAHLI image of the target we named "Mosquito Flat."

It is a rock with an interesting dark feature, which will complement the observations on the lighter toned bedrock Curiosity targeted in the past plans. ChemCam is targeting a diagenetic feature with its LIBS on a target called "Chocolate Peak" (nothing to do with the state of my computer keyboard, I promise, as this name refers to the 11,682 foot Chocolate Peak in eastern Sierras). ChemCam also looks at the Gediz Vallis Ridge with a long distance RMI observation. ChemCam also has an AEGIS LIBS observation in the sol after the drive.

Mastcam has a multispectral observation of the DRT spot at "Mosquito Flat" in the plan, a documentation image on "Chocolate Peak" and two larger mosaics. One is directly to the starboard side of the rover to investigate all the laminations and diagenetic features we see in the area around us, and one on the Gediz Vallis Ridge, which continues to be an intriguing target that we learn more about as we get more images.

Atmospheric observations with a focus on the opacity of the atmosphere as well as DAN looking at the subsurface and a MARDI image round off the plan. Have fun on the rocky road, Curiosity.

Sols 3946-3947: Onwards to Bishop
by Lauren Edgar, Planetary Geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center
Pasadena CA (JPL) Earth planning date: Monday, September 11, 2023: Curiosity is making good progress towards our next potential drill location in a region of alternating light and dark banding. Before we get there, we're collecting a lot of great contact science on these blocks of broken up bedrock to document compositional and textural changes. Today's two-sol plan includes contact science and driving on the first sol, followed by untargeted remote sensing on the second sol.

I was on shift as SOWG Chair today, and it was a remarkably smooth day of planning - I love it when the plan comes together so well and fits within our power, data, and time of day constraints while accomplishing some great science. The plan starts by using the DRT to expose a fresh surface at the bedrock target "Antikythera," followed by APXS to assess its chemistry. Then we'll use ChemCam and Mastcam multispectral to collect some additional chemistry observations on the same target.

The team also planned several Mastcam mosaics at "Delphi," "Mycenae," and "Zagori" to assess the local bedrock and some resistant fins, and to document a nearby ripple field with an edge-on view of the bedform crests. We'll also use the ChemCam RMI to acquire a long distance mosaic looking back towards Peace Vallis, and take a Mastcam tau observation to assess atmospheric opacity. In the afternoon, MAHLI will image the DRT target "Antikythera," followed by a ~26 m drive and imaging to prepare for the next plan. The second sol includes an autonomously selected ChemCam target, and Navcam observations to assess dust in the atmosphere and search for dust devils.

The planned drive should put us in a new mapping quadrangle, informally known as the Bishop quad. Our informal naming convention is to divide up the exploration region into square quadrangles (0.025 degrees of latitude or longitude on a side) and each quad is assigned a name of a town with a population less than 100,000 people. As Curiosity investigates targets within a quad, we assign names to targets that correspond to geological formations and features from near that town on Earth. Bishop California is located in Owens Valley, and is the starting point for trips into the High Sierra, including some awesome geology. It feels like a fitting name for the next part of Curiosity's ascent of Mt. Sharp!

Related Links
Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more

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Another Martian Weekend" Sols 3943-3945
Pasadena CA (JPL) Sep 12, 2023
Earth planning date: Friday, September 8, 2023: Curiosity continues its bumpy travels across the bedrock blocks this weekend. We got the good news this morning that we would be able to safely do contact science in the plan! This means that we have a very familiar weekend plan - contact science on the first sol, a drive on the second sol, and remote science on the third sol. We've had this general structure on countless weekends throughout Curiosity's travels, but the ever-changing landscape around ... read more

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