NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover faces a particularly thorny power conundrum

This image was taken by the Mast Camera (MastCam) on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 4219 (2024-06-19 02:22:26 UTC). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

After successfully drilling in „Mammoth Lakes 2,” the Curiosity mission team developed strategies to harness the power. tuesday Integrating research, environmental observations, and remote sensing into weekend activities.

All ours Be patient As, the reward is given NASA The Curiosity Mars rover crew was greeted with the news that our drilling attempt at „Mammoth Lakes 2” was a success! You can see the drill hole in the image above and the first one we tried on the left (see image below). The actual drilling is just the beginning – we need to see what is drilled. We’re starting that process this weekend by using our laser spectrometer (LIPS) to look at the hole before delivering some of the drilled material to CheMin (Chemistry and Mineralogy X-ray Diffraction Apparatus) to make its own investigations.

Mars rover Curiosity Sol 4210

This image was taken on Sol 4210 by the left navigation camera on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity and captures the module that hosts our potential drilling target, “Mammoth Lakes.” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The next phase of the training campaign is usually to continue the analysis with SAM (Model analysis in the Mars Instrument Package), which is very power hungry. As a result, we want to make sure we go into the next project with enough energy to do so. This meant that even though we had a lot of free time this weekend and only took three Sols and CheMin overnight, we had to think carefully about how we used that free time. Sometimes, when scientific teams present our proposals, we are overconfident. Sometimes this faith is rewarded and we are allowed to keep more science in the program. Today we had to strategize a bit more, and the afternoon Science Activities Working Group meeting (or SOWG, as it came to be known) turned into a puzzle session as we figured out what to work around and what to put aside for now. .

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An unusual feature of this weekend’s project will be short change-detection observations of „Walker Lake” and „Finch Lake,” targets we’ve seen in past projects to observe the wind-driven movement of Martian sand. These were peppered through three sets of plans to see any changes during a single sol. Although these are relatively short observations – only a few minutes – we have to wake up the rover to take them, which eats up our energy. Fortunately, the science team took this into account, and classified the observations as high, medium or low priority. This made it easier to take out the less important ones to save less power.

Curiosity discovers ancient organic matter

This low-angle self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the rover where it landed to drill into a rocky target called „Buckskin” under Mount Sharp. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Another energy-saving strategy is to carefully consider where the observations go. A weekend program is always the „AM ENV Science Block” – time dedicated to morning observations of the environment and atmosphere. Usually, this block goes into the final project of the project, but we already had to wake up in the morning of the first sol for CheMin to finish its analysis. This meant we could move the morning ENV block to the first sol, and Curiosity had some time to sleep at the end of the project.

By making these changes, not only were we able to complete the project with enough power for Monday’s activities, but we were still able to fit in the remote science. This includes several mosaics from both Mastcam and ChemCam at past targets such as „Whitebark Pass” and „Quarry Peak”. We have two new LIBS targets: “Broken Fingertip” and “Relief Bass”. In addition to our morning block, ENV was able to sneak in a few more observations: a dust-devil movie, and a Visible and Dow to track the changing dust levels in the atmosphere.

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Written by Alex Innanen, an atmospheric scientist at the University of York

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