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 striking image shows the flat surface of the local mudstone in the Pahrump area. In it you can see raised ridges and veins, a bit like we saw back in Yellowknife Bay. This may be related to periodic dessication, as the lake deposits dried up at times in their evolution.
You can see dunes encroaching over the ancient mudstone surface. Their dark colour is a result of their likely basaltic composition. Its is only quite recently that we have realised that dunes are active on present day Mars. Up until HiRISE imagery in from 2006, it was thought they were all static and 'fossilised'. But then a lot has changed about our understanding of Mars in the last 10 years, and largely as a result of MSL!
We have just had MSL and ChemCam team meetings in Pasadena, a focus of the the discussions has been medium term planning about the observations we will make as we gradually climb Mt. Sharp. We can expect more CheMin XRD analyses for one things and regular ChemCam observations of course. The mineralogy and fluid history will be one of the most important aspects of this study.
We have now reached the first foothills in the Mt. Sharp part of the mission. This area is called the Pahrump Hills. The Navcam image shows the sort of terrain we will be driving over in the next part of the mission as we spend more time analysing and drilling the sedimentary rock outcrops compared to our current driving routine.
We are in an uneven area of terrain with sand-filled hollows so we have changed direction, out of Hidden Valley and via Trilobite Crater. The rover planners 'RP's' are cautious about slippage in sand. At a early stage in the Mars Exploration Rover's missions, in mid 2005, Opportunity became stuck with several wheels buried in the sand. It tok 6 weeks to get free, and we want to avoid that happening with Curiosity.
As we were performing a minidrill - thats the smaller test hole prior to a large full drill hole - the prongs that keep the turret and drill steady slipped by a small amount.. This caused the drilling to halt. It may be that Bonanza_King is softer than we have come across before. The drill is undamaged, but we now have to decide how to proceed and if possible get a sample.