To sift the sands of Mars

This last week has been an interesting one for news on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, with the release on the 27th September of news that the rover Curiosity has come across extensive evidence for free-flowing water to have once existed in Gale Crater.

Curiosity examines Jake

Prior to this, on Sol 47 (September 23rd) Curiosity commenced contact science on a rock dubbed Jake Matijevic, using the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS), mounted on the turret at the end of the rover’s robot arm. Studies of the rock continued through Sol 48, September 24th, with the ChemCam laser being used once more to assist in analysing the rock’s composition, and MAHLI, the Mars Hand Lens Imager, gathering a range of images of the rock from various distances.

On Sol 49, Curiosity resumed its drive towards Glenelg, a region where three different types of terrain, as observed from orbit, come together. Now over half-way to the region, the rover travelled a further 31 metres (102 ft). During the day, the rover also captured more images of its location and observed the Martian sky.

Sol 50 saw the rover complete its longest single drive to date: 48.9 metres (160 ft), bringing the total distance covered to over 400 metres, or close to quarter of a mile. With the drive came a shift in emphasis for the science team, as they start looking for a location where Curiosity can obtain its first sample of Martian soil. Ideally, the team would like to find a sandy spot with planet of loose Martian fines which can be scooped up by the sample system on the robot arm and then delivered to the on-board SAM and CheMin instruments for detailed analysis.

The road to Glenelg: a mosaic of the land immediately before Curiosity and leading up to Glenelg.

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