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 an image of the drillhole, and the tailings around it, taken by the MAHLI microimager on the robotic arm. In the tailings pile and within the hole (it is 1.6 cm deep) you can a light mineral; this is the sort of visual information that is important in interpreting the drill hole and John Klein mineralogy. It looks like we have sampled the sulphate veins that are characteristic of the John Klein area.
Soon we will start on a second drillhole a few metres away, in order to check and compare the results of the first drillhole.
Our first image has come back after conjunction. Here is the Chemcam remote microimager (RMI) of our titanium calibration target. We use this target, of known composition, to calibrate our ChemCam elemental analyses. Analysing this is one of our routine activities. You can see the spots on it left by the near infrared laser.
Mars is not out of conjunction, so, we are only getting short, small data volumes of communication from Curiosity. However, that is exactly what we expected so we are confident that before too long we will get back to full science operations.
Even though Curiosity and its robotic arm are parked during Conjunction, the thermal control system continues to operate. Through the martian seasons (currently southern summer) Curiosity has to survive a temperature range of -120oC to +30oC. The engineers who build the thermal control system (Birur et al. From Concept to Flight: An Active Fluid Loop Based Thermal Control System for Mars Science Laboratory Rover ) identified major thermal challenges of the MSL rover including: 1. Protecting the sensitive electronics, battery, and science instruments from the extreme cold of martian nights, 2. Handling extremely limited electrical power available for the rover for surface operations.
The plutonium heat source RTG generates not only ~120 W of electrical power but also about 2000 W of heat. The tubing that carries pumped fluid from the RTG maintains temperatures above -40C so that we can operature the instruments.