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:
We have started the condensed drilling procedures at Bonanza_King, having driven back out of Hidden Valley and its sandy deposits, to take another route. You can see that the brush is working and we have just exposed the now familiar grey Mars beneath the oxidised red veneer, prior to drilling. It looks like some late fluids have cut through the sediments as shown by the light veins.
We have retraced our tracks in Hidden Valley, going back to a site called Bonanza_King. We are going to do a short drilling programme ('Condensed Drilling') here on some outcrop in the bright area in the Navcam photo. Its important that we get analyses of the mineralogy of a representative selection of different rock types as we go up the stratigraphy of the sedimentary layers towards Mt. Sharp.
We are moving into a new sort of terrain as we enter Hidden Valley. On this HiRISE image and the inset MAHLI image you can see the sand ripples that we are traversing. This has benefits over the hard rocky terrain as there will be less wear on the wheels but we will monitor slippage carefully as we drive.
We have been analysing the Windjana drill tailings for over 2 months now and have just dumped the drill tailings.
The long and repeat analyses by SAM and CheMin allowed us to look at the effects of degassing of samples over time (e.g. the noble gas argon, used in K-Ar dating) and to get the best XRD analyses. Exposing the drilled powder samples to the X-ray source over several occasions allows us to track any potential changes e.g. in hydration state of the tailings and to get better 'counting statitics' from which mineral abundances are determined. For that we fit the position and shape of the peaks to standard spectra here on Earth using what is called the Rietveld Method.