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 just completed our latest drillhole at Lubango. This is a drill into the Stimson sandstone, trying to characterise the silica-rich mineralogy: has it been derived from low temperature fluids after the rock has formed, or were high temperature silica grains brought in by winds as the sandstone was forming? CheMin XRD will help determine the answer as we can constrain the temperature from the identity of the minerals.
I will be Geo Science Theme lead for two sols this week and my colleague Dr Susanne Schwenzer will be joining me to get trained up for this operations role.
Here is a NavCam mosaic of the Naukluft Plateau. We are looking around us for the next drill target. A particular feature is searching for, and trying to understand, silica enrichments. The formation we are driving over is called the Stimson and is thought to have formed from ancient wind blown sediments which cut down through the underlying lake deposits of the Murray formation. Are these silica enrichments due to late alteration along fractures or was some of it blown in with the other Stimson grains?
We have just started an MSL team meeting at Caltech in Pasadena, California. We are welcoming new team members and discussing our findings since the last team meeting in Paris.
The Mission Manager Jim Erickson noted that as we have a Pu238 Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) as far as he is concerned the mission can go on for ever!
As Pu238 decays with a half life of 88 years (by alpha particle decay) it will produce enough heat for at least 14 years to produce 2.5 kW per day to keep the lithium ion batteries charged.
One of the ChemCam capabilities is to use its Remote MicroImager (RMI) to take images of our laser LIBS targets, but also of more distant features. These black and white images give fantastic contrast and resolution. The pixel scale is 20 micro radians per pixel, meaning RMI can resolve 4 mm at 100 metres distance. Here is a recent example taken in the last few days, where the RMI shows the layers in Mt. Sharp.
For more RMI see http://www.msl-chemcam.com/