by Conor Hayes | Graduate Student - York University
Pasadena CA (JPL) Dec 18, 2023
Earth planning date: Friday, December 15, 2023: Planning can often be a very careful balancing act, and today was certainly no exception. Because we are heading into the weekend, we'd usually get three sols to do all of our science. However, because there is a "soliday" in this plan to help re-synchronize Earth time and Mars time, we're actually only getting two sols.
On top of that, we came into planning with slightly less power than we were expecting, meaning that we had less flexibility about how much additional time we could ask for. It was also initially unclear whether or not we had parked somewhere that would allow us to use the rover's arm, but our hard-working rover planners eventually concluded that we were safe to get up close and personal with today's workspace.
This very busy plan begins with a ChemCam LIBS of a bedrock target named "The Thumb" (after a mountain in California near the Nevada border). ChemCam RMI will then take a mosaic of "Cap Rocks" back in the direction of the Marker Band that we crossed about 230 sols ago. Mastcam will document the LIBS results on The Thumb, take a mosaic of some disrupted bedding that was initially identified from orbit, then take some images of the area that we will be driving towards.
After that set of remote sensing observations, we will then unstow the arm for some contact science on two targets: "Four Gables" and "Arrow Peak." This includes briefly touching both targets with APXS, using DRT on Arrow Peak, then taking some close-up MAHLI images of both. After sunset, both targets will get a nice long APXS integration.
When we wake up on the second sol of this plan, we'll start by taking four Navcam images of the north crater rim to characterize the amount of dust in the crater. Navcam will then take a series of short movies looking for dust devils all around us.
ChemCam then turns on in preparation for a sequence of activities, including a LIBS of the APXS target Arrow Peak, an RMI mosaic of the Upper Gediz Vallis Ridge from a new angle, and a series of passive spectra to measure the atmospheric composition. This block of observations wraps up with Mastcam documentation of the LIBS on Arrow Peak and a mosaic of "Polemonium Peak." Overnight, APXS will take some atmospheric measurements to complement those taken by ChemCam earlier in the sol.
Just a few hours before we hand over into the plan that we'll build on Monday, Curiosity wakes up for some early-morning environmental science observations, including Navcam and Mastcam imaging to measure dust above and within Gale, as well as a pair of movies to monitor any clouds that may be lingering now that we've moved out of Mars' cloudy season and into the dusty season.