Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Mars Exploration News .




MARSDAILY
Second Time Through, Mars Rover Examines Chosen Rocks
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 20, 2014


This small ridge, about 3 feet (1 meter) long, appears to resist wind erosion more than the flatter plates around it. Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. For a larger version of this image please go here.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has completed a reconnaissance "walkabout" of the first outcrop it reached at the base of the mission's destination mountain and has begun a second pass examining selected rocks in the outcrop in more detail.

Exposed layers on the lower portion of Mount Sharp are expected to hold evidence about dramatic changes in the environmental evolution of Mars. That was a major reason NASA chose this area of Mars for this mission. The lowermost of these slices of time ascending the mountain includes a pale outcrop called "Pahrump Hills." It bears layers of diverse textures that the mission has been studying since Curiosity acquired a drilled sample from the outcrop in September.

In its first pass up this outcrop, Curiosity drove about 360 feet (110 meters), and scouted sites ranging about 30 feet (9 meters) in elevation. It evaluated potential study targets from a distance with mast-mounted cameras and a laser-firing spectrometer.

"We see a diversity of textures in this outcrop -- some parts finely layered and fine-grained, others more blocky with erosion-resistant ledges," said Curiosity Deputy Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "Overlaid on that structure are compositional variations. Some of those variations were detected with our spectrometer. Others show themselves as apparent differences in cementation or as mineral veins. There's a lot to study here."

During a second pass up the outrcrop, the mission is using a close-up camera and spectrometer on the rover's arm to examine selected targets in more detail. The second-pass findings will feed into decisions about whether to drill into some target rocks during a third pass, to collect sample material for onboard laboratory analysis.

"The variations we've seen so far tell us that the environment was changing over time, both as the sediments were laid down and also after they hardened into bedrock," Vasavada said.

"We have selected targets that we think give us the best chance of answering questions about how the sediments were deposited -- in standing water? flowing water? sand blowing in the wind? -- and about the composition during deposition and later changes."

The first target in the second pass is called "Pelona," a fine-grained, finely layered rock close to the September drilling target at the base of Pahrump Hills outcrop. The second is a more erosion-resistant ledge called "Pink Cliffs."

Before examining Pelona, researchers used Curiosity's wheels as a tool to expose a cross section of a nearby windblown ripple of dust and sand. One motive for this experiment was to learn why some ripples that Curiosity drove into earlier this year were more difficult to cross than anticipated.

While using the rover to investigate targets in Pahrump Hills, the rover team is also developing a work-around for possible loss of use of a device used for focusing the telescope on Curiosity's Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument, the laser-firing spectrometer.

Diagnostic data from ChemCam suggest weakening of the instrument's smaller laser. This is a continuous wave laser used for focusing the telescope before the more powerful laser is fired. The main laser induces a spark on the target it hits; light from the spark is received though the telescope and analyzed with spectrometers to identify chemical elements in the target.

If the smaller laser has become too weak to continue using, the ChemCam team plans to test an alternative method: firing a few shots from the main laser while focusing the telescope, before performing the analysis. This would take advantage of more than 2,000 autofocus sequences ChemCam has completed on Mars, providing calibration points for the new procedure.

Curiosity landed on Mars in August 2012, but before beginning the drive toward Mount Sharp, the rover spent much of the mission's first year productively studying an area much closer to the landing site, but in the opposite direction.

The mission accomplished its science goals in that Yellowknife Bay area. Analysis of drilled rocks there disclosed an ancient lakebed environment that, more than three billion years ago, offered ingredients and a chemical energy gradient favorable for microbes, if any existed there.

Curiosity spent its second year driving more than 5 miles (8 kilometers) from Yellowknife Bay to the base of Mount Sharp, with pauses at a few science waypoints.


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

.


Related Links
Curiosity mission
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





MARSDAILY
NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Finds Mineral Match
Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 06, 2014
Reddish rock powder from the first hole drilled into a Martian mountain by NASA's Curiosity rover has yielded the mission's first confirmation of a mineral mapped from orbit. "This connects us with the mineral identifications from orbit, which can now help guide our investigations as we climb the slope and test hypotheses derived from the orbital mapping," said Curiosity Project Scientist ... read more


MARSDAILY
Russia Preparing Joint Moon Exploration Agreement With EU

U.K. group to crowd-source funding for moon mission

After Mars, India space chief aims for the moon

China examines the three stages of lunar test run

MARSDAILY
China Launches Second Disaster Relief Satellite

China expects to introduce space law around 2020

China launches new remote sensing satellite

China publishes Earth, Moon photos taken by lunar orbiter

MARSDAILY
Soyuz docks at Space Station; Expedition 42 joins crew

Italy's first female astronaut heads to ISS in Russian craft

Space station gets zero-gravity 3-D printer

NASA Commercial Crew Partners Continue System Advancements

MARSDAILY
Pluto's Exotic Chemistry

Clues Revealed About Hidden Interior of Uranus

New Horizons Set to Wake Up for Pluto Encounter

Hubble Telescope Finds Potential Kuiper Belt Targets for New Horizons Pluto Mission

MARSDAILY
Cassini probe measures sea depth on Saturn's moon Titan

Cassini Sails into New Ocean Adventures on Titan

Cassini Sees Sunny Seas on Titan

NASA Identifies Ice Cloud Above Cruising Altitude on Titan

MARSDAILY
NASA Computer Model Provides a New Portrait of Carbon Dioxide

NASA's New Wind Watcher Ready for Weather Forecasters

GOES-S Satellite EXIS Instrument Passes Final Review

NASA Lining up ICESat-2's Laser-catching Telescope

MARSDAILY
Astronauts to get 'ISSpresso' coffee machine

Ball Aerospace equips Orion with key avionics and antenna hardware

Tencent looks to the final travel frontier

ESA Commissions Airbus As contractor For Orion Service Module

MARSDAILY
How to estimate the magnetic field of an exoplanet?

Follow the Dust to Find Planets

NASA's TESS mission cleared for next development phase

ADS primes ESA's CHEOPS to detect and classify exoplanets




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.