Curiosity looks Forward to continued Science Mission at Mount Sharp in 2015
January 7, 2015 - Sol 861
On top of the Murray Formation is a hematite ridge followed by clays and sulfate bearing rocks. Studying these features will allow scientists to gather a detailed stratigraphic record that will reveal the changing planetary environments.
In mid-October, Curiosity took a break to observe the close encounter of Comet Siding Spring that passed just under 140,000 Kilometers from Mars - providing tantalizing results obtained by orbiting spacecraft that showed that Mars was showered in several metric tons of cometary material, causing a significant response of the Martian atmosphere.
On Sol 792, Curiosity spent some time with ChemCam and MastCam observations of seven different targets in the vicinity of the rover before MSL traversed 16 meters - again taking MARDI images along the way and stopping for mid- and post-drive imaging. The next sol was dedicated to atmospheric observations performed by NavCam and MastCam as well as passive ChemCam spectral observations. The drive brought Curiosity right up to the Chinle rock outcrop, a layered segment of rock that was the subject of MastCam imaging and ChemCam analyses on Sol 794. The sol also featured a long drive over 25 meters using MARDI imaging along the way as well as mid and post-drive photographing with MastCam and Navcam. Blind imaging operations were made on Sol 795 plus NavCam imaging to search for Dust Devils.
Layered Structures at Chinle
Contact science shifted from the lower part of the outcrop to the middle portion the next sol that again featured the Dust Removal Tool to clean a slab of rock before MAHLI and APXS got their turn of photographing and analyzing the rock, Afton Canyon, in detail. Moving on to the upper section of Book Cliffs on Sol 815, another rock was brushed and examined in addition to MAHLI imaging of more locations.
The Sol 823-825 plan included more ChemCam observations of targets Mescal and Horned Toad before the Puente target was brushed off for observations with MAHLI and APXS plus MastCam imaging of the various rock targets at Alexander Hills. A drive over more than 25 meters on Sol 826 put Curiosity back in position at the Chinle target for a multi-sol campaign lasting through Sol 835 to perform an in-detail examination of the layered rocks seen on the first pass-by of the location. MAHLI was in action to take close-up photos of the different layers before two targets were brushed off for focused analysis by ChemCam, APXS and MAHLI.
Second Pass at Chinle
To allow teams to have a break over the holidays, Curiosity received a basic plan for Sols 845 through 853 - including normal REMS and RAD operations and regular communication sessions, allowing MSL to downlink data that had been stored on board for some time. After Christmas, teams came back and planned three sols of targeted science and four sols of REMS and housekeeping operations to head into the new year. The targeted science block consisted of MastCam and ChemCam operations at three local targets to characterize rock texture and composition along with APXS integrations and atmospheric observations.