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:
Planetary conjunction has ended and communication of science results between Curiosity , Mars orbiters and Earth is possible again. The first images show us in our position at the Stimson outcrop, and we are starting to take more analyses. The time gap does not appear to have affected the rover and we are resuming full operations..
Planetary conjunction - with no MSL operations - is an ideal time for a team meeting. We have just finished a a Mars Science Laboratory team meeting in Paris (Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle) and at the IAS Orsay. This gave us a chance to discuss the latest ChemCam data calibration and how that may change our views of the differentiation of the Mars crust. The idea of Mars as a solely basaltic world is being changed by MSL and ChemCam, we have seen many more silica-rich analyses than we expected.
An MSL landmark day. We have reached 1000 sols on Mars. Looking back the remarkable thing is how few serious problems there have been, and when a technical problem has appeared like the focusing laser on ChemCam, a solution has been found.
However, there is one issue even Curiosity cant avoid - Conjunction. For much of June Mars will be obscured from Earth by the Sun. Few science operations, and so a good time to have the next MSL team meeting in Paris. We will have half as much contact via the orbiters.
On Mars we are analysing the Ronan outcrop at the Pahrump/Stimson contact. In preparation for Conjunction we now have to stow the arm and make sure the rover is set for a prolonged period of no driving and limited activity.
In a first for the mission we have successfully climbed a slope at Mt. Stimson. This is to look at a contact between two types of rock which show a change in environment as coarser material was channeled into the fine muds of the the Pahrump rocks.
Having seen the Curiosity 'scarecrow' in action at the jpl Mars yard in Pasadena, I know that the rover is capable of going up steep slopes e.g. 20 degrees. As we progress through the Mt. Sharp foothills we will do more driving like this. However, it will always be slow as the rover planners who check and plan the daily drive are cautious about slippage over sandy terrain.
You can see the Mars Yard on my sol 48 entry: