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:
This MAHLI image (field of view about 20 cm) shows how water has travelled through the Garden City mudstone rock. It has left trails in veins - probably of gypsum or a similar mineral. The purity of the veins suggest that they formed from the redissolution of an evaporite sedimentary layer, perhaps above the current level of sediments.
Meanwhile the SAM team have published findings (link below) showing the presence of gas (nitric oxide NO) formed from the breakdown of nitrates. This nitrate was present in the Rocknest sand and the John_Klein and Cumberland mudstones. That is important because 'fixed' nitrogen of this type is regarded as one of the essential parts of an habitable environment for microbial life.
We have started moving off from Pahrump, towards our next main Waypoint at Artist's Drive. This remarkable site of large sulfate veins is in front of us at Garden City. Such a large concentration suggests that we may be getting closer to a sedimentary layer of evaporite salts, as we progress through the foothills of Mt. Sharp. The middle parts of Mt Sharp show signs of sulphate enrichment because of their spectral signature in the near infra red parts of the spectrum.
This week is also the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston (home of the NASA Johnson Space Centre). There will be a lot of discussion about MSL results, I am giving a talk about Hematite Ridge - one of the main MSL targets - and how it might have formed through martian weathering.
We are in the middle of preparing a 3 sol plan, in the final stages of the Pahrump campaign. We have had a short circuit related to the drill mechanism but expect to have the turret and all its instruments back in action in a few sols. Meanwhile SAM has been measuring atmospheric gases unaffected by this problem. We have been working at Pahrump for about 180 sols now, and this is part of our extended mission plan: we are spending more time at waypoints and less time driving.
Here is the latest, spectacular MAHLI selfie, made from a mosaic of the microscope imager pictures in January shortly befroe we drilled Mojave2. The yellow place names are where we have drilled, including yestersol at Telegraph_Peak.