John Bridges: Mars Science Laboratory Blog
In addition to the blog, you can find some amazing videos and other content related to the mission, at:
Here is the latest selfie - perhaps the best yet. It is from the Big Sky drill site (you can see the Big Sky drill hole and the drill tailings) in the lower left. Curiosity itself is looking a bit dusty and with a few punctures in the wheels, but otherwise fine.
We are planning a second drill site on a silica-rich part of this Stimson unit to compare to the silica-poor Big Sky drill hole. This data is helping to change our view of Mars as solely a basaltic planet, some areas underwent extreme chemical fractionation.
This MAHLI image (taken at nighttime and illuminated by LEDs) shows the precision of the ChemCam LIBS shooting at about 2.5 m distance from the ChemCam on the mast. You can see a '10x1' array of shots up the side of the 1.5 cm wide drillhole and a '5x1' array in the fresh drill tailings.
I have been GeoMin Science theme lead for the last 2 sols and we are searching for the next drillhole to compare silica rich and poor mineral assemblages.
Our latest drillhole has gone successfully, at Big Sky. We will compare the compositional and X-ray diffraction data mineral data to that of the Buckskin drillhole to try and understand the unusual silica enrichments. Are we looking at compositions not unlike terrestrial sandstones formed by erosion of a differentiated crust, or is the composition dominated by the alteration of basaltic composition sediments - which releases silica?Identifying the different types of silica (SiO2) minerals that form at characteristic temperatures will help resolve this when combined with all the Curiosity imagery.
This week at the European Planetary Science Congress in Nantes, France, we are discussing many of the Curiosity results including alteration of the Gale sediments by groundwaters.
I have been Geo Science Theme Lead GSTL for the last two sol plan (sols 1112-1113). One of the main topics we have been discussing is where to drill next. This rock called Meeteetse - a Wyoming Native American name meaning meeting place - contains some of the high silica contents we have been finding recently in the light areas, and also late veins that cut through the rock.