John Bridges: Mars Science Laboratory Blog

This blog is a record of my experiences and work during the Mars Science Laboratory mission, from the preparation, landing on August 5th 2012 Pacific Time, and onwards...

In addition to the blog, you can find some amazing videos and other content related to the mission, at:

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/videos/index.cfm?v=49

John Bridges

21st November 2014 Sol 815

21st November 2014 Sol 815

Posted by jcb36 at Nov 21, 2014 12:32 AM |

This MAHLI image shows the importance of the DRT Dust Removal Tool brushes.  A section of Pahrump has been exposed by the DRT to reveal striking relict crystal structures in the fine grained sediment.  These will have formed after the rock lithified, perhaps by evaporation at the same time as the gypsum veins formed in Yellowknife Bay.  When we see textures like this we always think about terrestrial analogues, the flagstones which pave some of the streets of Scotland, taken from the 'Old Red Sandstone' ~350 Myr shallow lake beds of Orkney and Caithness (see picture of these in outcrop) are one type of terrestrial rock that contains such structures. 

11th November 2014 Sol 806

11th November 2014 Sol 806

Posted by jcb36 at Nov 11, 2014 08:54 PM |

Mars Science Laboratory has changed our view of Mars: following the 2 Viking landers of 1976 and the Pathfinder Lander in 1997 we had an idea that Mars was predominantly made of basaltic igneous rocks.  However, on the basis of what we now know from our 10 km of travels in Gale Crater we are now a lot more receptive to the idea that much of Mars is made of sedimentary layers deposited by water.  So looking back at this first colour image from the Viking 2 lander (which landed near Mie Crater in Utopia Planitia in the northern plains in 1976) some of the samples - like the one in the white  inset lines - may be layered.  Accurately determining the origins of rocks without getting right up close is very difficult, MSL will stimulate us to look again at what we think we know about Mars.

2nd November 2014 Sol 797

2nd November 2014 Sol 797

Posted by jcb36 at Nov 02, 2014 12:19 PM |

This NavCam image shows one of the outcrops we have been analysing in detail at the Chinle outcrop in Pahrump.  This could be one of the classic MSL outcrops which helps unlock how Mt Sharp formed and what sort of lakes and deltas were present on Mars. You can see fine scaled layering and cross-bedding, and we are taking lots of ChemCam analyses to check the variation in composition.  We know from the orbital near Infrared analyses by CRISM that we are moving into an area with more Fe oxide, and this will lead up to the 'Hematite Ridge' which is one of our main mission targets.  Piecing together why there were was a change from the Yellowknife Bay type of conditions with deposition of fine grained sediment into a lake, to these Fe oxide rich lacustrine sediments will help unravel early Mars.

27th October 2014 Sol 791

27th October 2014 Sol 791

Posted by jcb36 at Oct 27, 2014 09:03 PM |

You can see from the inset on this map that we have started driving again, south towards the higher ground, though in small distances compared to some of the long ~100 m drives we did earlier in the mission.  The inset (from HiRISE) superimposed on a HazCam image, shows how one of the important things we have learnt with MSL is what terrains like this look like on the ground.  That is important for ExoMars landing site selection for instance.  On Friday I visited Airbus in Stevenage where the ExoMars rover is being built, and this new 'ground truth' was one of the topics of discussion.

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