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 Left MastCam ('M34' because of the focal length) view shows the Pahrump drilled grains just before they are about to be sieved by closing up the scoop and sieve, then turning the whole robotic arm turret. As this is going on, and before we dump the drilled material, there are engineering restrictions on how we can move the robotic arm. We are getting APXS for the major element chemistry and ChemCam to show us spot analyses, in addition to the X-ray diffraction for mineral abundances.
Pahrump Hills Drillhole
We have completed the mini and main drill holes, at the Confidence Hills locality in Pahrump Hills. Over the weekend the drill powder is being sieved and transferred to CheMin. The lighter colour compared to the Kimberley drillhole suggests there is less Fe oxide at this locality. One of the other features of this drill site is the presence of concretions along the fractures, we will be analysing these with ChemCam and APXS over the next week to try and determine the nature of the fluids. One idea is to do a depth profile of 150 shots with the ChemCam laser to get below the uppermost, exposed surface. I will be Science Theme Lead for a couple of days during the week and we will be aiming to get as much information as possible from the drill site and its surrounding area.
We are drilling at Pahrump (named after an old Shoshone, native American settlement in what is now Nevada). This is part of the new phase of our mission where we plan to spend a higher proportion of our time making analyses relative to driving.
Meanwhile the Navcams have captured this spectacular view of the Pahrump Hills with the main part of Mt. Sharp rising behind, and dark dunes encroaching on the view from the west.
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.