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 are nearing the next major phase of the mission - the Bagnold Dunes campaign.
These were the first feature we saw with the MARDI descent imager as we approached the landing site with the Skycrane landing system (see inset image to see the dark dunes). We are a couple of drives from these large barchan dunes, and a very different landscape.
We have completed another drill so that we now have the Big Sky and Greenhorn drill holes. As the team becomes more experienced we are getting quicker at producing drillholes and so we can get more analyses.
The sample wheel on CheMin allows a planned 27 samples from drilling (or scooping) for X-ray diffraction analysis though in practice if we dump samples we could do more. The X-ray source is cobalt-57. Cobalt-57 (anotherwords the isotope of cobalt with a mass of 57) decays with a half life of 271 days, to produce iron-57 by gamma emission. This means that we can expect to get a strong enough X-ray flux for effective X-ray diffraction for a few years to come.
Here is a great you tube video clip about drilling on Curiosity
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.