3 min read

Sol 3762: SAM Wants More Sample

This image of the SAM inlets on the Curiosity rover was taken on sol 3759.
Sol 3759 Mastcam Left image of SAM inlet 2 (open) and SAM inlet 1 (closed) after dropping off initial sample to SAM inlet 2.

This morning’s plan started a bit uncertain as we waited for the SAM team to decide whether to proceed with further analysis of the Tapo Caparo drill sample. Just in case they decided against it, last Friday’s team put together two options for our plan today — the second option requiring Rover Planner, MAHLI, and APXS activities to help wrap up this drill campaign.

We started planning today at 10am PST due to the timing of our orbital passes above Gale crater, which can sometimes mean a pretty long day for the tactical planning team! However, on today’s "late-slide" plan, the SAM team decided quickly they were “go” for further sample analysis, which meant no arm activities could be planned (since we’re still carrying sample from drilling) and everyone on the Rover Planner/MAHLI/APXS teams were released for the day. As someone on today's MAHLI uplink team, I was content having a slow Monday to start this last busy week at the Tapo Caparo drill site. The instrument teams carrying our mission today include Mastcam, ChemCam, and most importantly: SAM!

We are now at the stage of our drill sol path where we have to be careful about how much battery power we’re using, so today’s plan includes a lot of nap time. We have just a single, ~1 hour remote science block with two Mastcam stereo multispectral targets, a Mastcam stereo mosaic to extend coverage near the drill hole, and a ChemCam LIBS target with corresponding Mastcam documentation image of the laser shots. It’s rare that there are no Navcam activities, but they too were released from planning after priorities were discussed for the limited remote science time we can afford today.

After remote science concludes ~13:30 local Gale time, Curiosity will be mostly asleep until around midnight when the plan’s main (and hungriest for power) activity from SAM kicks off. SAM's gas chromatograph "column clean” activity will increase the intended column’s internal temperature until contaminants are removed to prepare for further sample drop off and full GCMS later this week. I like to think of this as “washing our hands before eating,” but for about 4.5 hours. After SAM finishes cleaning their column, our rover will sleep some more until the next plan starts at 09:49 after sunrise.

What does a “Mission Operations Specialist" like myself do on slower days like this? Besides writing these few words, I’m spending the rest of my day staring at images we’ve taken here from Mastcam/MAHLI/MARDI (in that order, usually — check out this cloud we imaged on sol 3724!), organizing my shift notes for next time, and chipping away at a python-based interface that will hopefully help the Mastcam team visualize our data more easily. Happy Monday, everyone!

Written by Natalie Moore, Mission Operations Specialist at Malin Space Science Systems