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‘Mont Mercou,’ from behind – NASA’s Mars Exploration Program



Part of the Curiosity Rover is visible in this Mars view

“Mont Mercou” as seen by the Left Navigation Camera aboard NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity on Sol 3074. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Sun 3081 will be a busy one for Curiosity. The rover is still near the transition between the “Glasgow” member and the sulfate bearing unit; as this is a major geological transition, the science team is trying to get as much data as possible before moving away.

First of all, the rover plans to perform a “touch-and-go”

;, perform contact and targeted distance science before driving away. First, curiosity will get some arm exercise by making APXS and MALHI observations of “Puymangou”, a dark spot on a mountain plate in front of the rover. Science will test whether the color difference represents a difference in composition relative to the nearby bedrock. For Rover Planners (of which I am one today) this is a challenging goal because it is small and slightly elevated compared to the surrounding parts of the cliff. We also need to avoid the nearby sand pockets trapped by the surface roughness of the rock. After the arm activities, Curiosity will store the arm to prepare for driving.

Before you drive away, there is a set of targeted scientific observations with Mastcam. In addition to a small 3×3 mosaic of contact science measure, we take a large stereo mosaic of “Mont Mercou” from the southwest to get more views of the sedimentary structures of the ridges. In addition to all the photos we have taken from other places around Mont Mercou, this latest set will allow us to build a complete 3D model of it. During the same pre-run time, ChemCam will also conduct a passive sky observation as part of our environmental package.

Then we say goodbye to Mont Mercou and begin our drive approx. 30 meters to the south-southwest. The terrain in this area is both quite rocky and has sand plains, which presents another challenge for Rover Planners. Curiosity will wind around some of the sharper cliffs and larger sand plains to land at a high point that should provide a good vantage point for planning the next drive as well as landing on some bedrock to enable contact science on the weekend plane. Rover Planners (and Curiosity’s wheels) certainly look forward to being further south, where the terrain is more benign and our drive no longer has to look like a slalom track.

After the drive, we take some imaging to support the next drive as well as some additional ChemCam observations of the sky and its calibration targets to continue monitoring the instrument’s health. Just around sunset we will make another set of cloud observations with Mastcam and Navcam in hopes of getting another spectacular picture of Mars’ cloudy sky and a MARDI picture of the earth under the rover. Finally, early the next morning, we will make several environmental observations, including a dust devil movie and a supra-horizon movie.

On the second sun in the plan, we make more environmental atmospheric observations of the sun, the horizon, more dust the devil’s film as well as some twilight Mastcam images.


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