A frosty anniversary weekend for Curiosity: Sols 3909-3911
by Alex Innanen | Atmospheric Scientist - York University
Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 04, 2023
Earth planning date: Friday August 4, 2023: We're planning a special weekend today - Saturday is the 11th (Earth) anniversary of Curiosity's landing! I was newly graduated from high school when I watched Curiosity touch down, and it still seems surreal sometimes that I get to be part of a mission I followed with such fascination back then.
We have an exciting anniversary (or 'landiversary' as it's sometimes called, a portmanteau of landing anniversary) weekend planned for Curiosity, including hopefully spotting some elusive frost. Unfortunately, Wednesday's frost observation, which was itself a repeat of last weekend's attempt, didn't go ahead as planned. This weekend we're giving it one more try and hoping that the third time is the charm. The cold, early morning temperatures that allow frost to form also mean that the rover needs lots of extra power to warm up. But even with the tight power, we're fitting in a lot to this weekend in between some well-deserved naps.
The weekend starts off with Mastcam looking at a rock and sand feature, 'Mamousia,' a nearby set of troughs, and the Gediz Vallis Ridge. Then ChemCam will take a look at the nearby 'Sopoto,' and join Mastcam at Gediz Vallis Ridge. MAHLI and APXS also get up close on Sopoto and MAHLI is also examining a dark vein in another bedrock, 'Kolpos Megaron.'
We wake up nice and early for the frost observation which is on an area of soil called 'Kiato.' This happens right around sunrise for the best chance of having the perfect conditions for frost. The ChemCam observation is accompanied by a zenith cloud movie to also look for water-ice above. After the daytime part of the frost experiment, as well as a couple of Mastcam observations of Sopoto and Kiato, it's time to drive away.
Curiosity gets to kick back and take it easy for the rest of its anniversary weekend, only waking up shortly before the end of the plan for some morning ENV activities. Even though we've been focusing on the frost experiments, we're in the middle of the cloudy season on Mars and happy to take any opportunity to watch the clouds around Gale Crater. We have three of our cloud observations, the zenith and suprahorizon movies, which look straight overhead and towards the horizon respectively, and a 360 degree sky survey, which captures most of the sky around the rover.