Science and Exploration

Curiosity Reaches New Heights On Mars

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
March 8, 2020
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Curiosity Reaches New Heights On Mars
Gale Crater

Sols 2696-2698: Made it!: Kudos to our rover drivers for making it up the steep, sandy slope below the “Greenheugh pediment” (visible in the left side of the above image) and delivering us to a stretch of geology we had our eyes on even before we landed in Gale crater!
The geology planning group honored the achievement of making it here by getting our cameras and laser on every little bit of rock we could manage.

MAHLI and APXS will analyze “Galloway Hills,” cleared of dust beforehand by the DRT, and “Ardwell Bay.” The former is on a smoother, flatter part of the sandstone we are parked on, and the latter is an example of the resistant features that dot the sandstone in this part of the pediment. MAHLI will also acquire a mosaic looking edge on at a package of sandstone layers at the bedrock target “Chinglebraes.”

ChemCam will sweep across the terrain in front and to the left of us to gather data that will help us understand the chemical variability of the pediment here. “Machrie Moor” and “Templars Park” are comparable to Galloway Hills in that they are flatter, smoother patches of bedrock. “Lowther Hills” is comparable to Ardwell Bay, as it is a collection of resistant features within the bedrock. “Cheviot Hills” appears to be a bit more of an oddball – it’s a dark, smooth block like those we have seen on “Western Butte” and “Tower Butte.” ChemCam will tell us if it is linked to the rocks we have seen before, or if it is just a particularly dust-free example of the pediment rocks.

Mastcam has plenty to look at from our high perch. It will acquire a stereo mosaic looking across the scene, dubbed “Enard Bay,” captured in the above Navcam image to get higher resolution and color views of the beds exposed there. Another large mosaic will cover the terrain into which we will drive over the weekend. The mosaic includes the drive target “East Lothian” and will give us an idea of the distribution of textures and structures of the bedrock we will be exploring for the near term. At the opposite end of the spectrum from a large mosaic, Mastcam will also take a single image of “Gars Bheinn,” one of the few blocks in the workspace that is relatively free of dust. The hope is that the image will give us a clearer view of the sandstone’s grain size and texture.

Now that we do not have a steep cliff in our front windshield, the skies stretch largely unencumbered above and around us. Navcam will take a 360 degree look around for dust devils on two different sols, and will acquire movies looking for clouds both in the afternoon and early morning. Mastcam and Navcam will assess the dustiness of the atmosphere by gazing across Gale crater from our great viewpoint.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.