Commands will be sent to Curiosity today instructing the rover to collect a third scoop of soil from the “Rocknest” site of windblown Martian sand and dust. Pending evaluation of this Sol 69 (Oct. 15, 2012) scooping, a sample from the scoopful is planned as the first sample for delivery — later this week — to one of the rover’s internal analytical instruments, the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument. A later scoopful will become the first solid sample for delivery to the rover’s other internal analytical instrument, the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument.
The rover’s second scoopful, collected on Sol 66 (Oct. 12), was intentionally discarded on Sol 67 due to concern about particles of bright material seen in the hole dug by the scooping. Other small pieces of bright material in the Rocknest area have been assessed as debris from the spacecraft. The science team did not want to put spacecraft material into the rover’s sample-processing mechanisms. Confidence for going ahead with the third scooping was based on new assessment that other bright particles in the area are native Martian material. One factor in that consideration is seeing some bright particles embedded in clods of Martian soil. Further investigations of the bright particles are planned, including some imaging in the Sol 69 plan.
This image shows some of the bright particles on the ground near the rover. By now the team has decided that these bright particles are native Martian material. Other light-toned material nearby (see the image below) has been assessed as small debris from the spacecraft.
Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera took this image on the mission’s on sol 66 (Oct. 12, 2012) showing part of the hole or bite left in the ground when Curiosity collected its first scoop of Martian soil five sols earlier. A clod of soil near the top center of the image contains a light-toned particle. The observation that the particle is embedded in the clod led scientists to assess this particle as Martian material, not something from the spacecraft. This assessment prompted the mission to continue scooping in the area, despite observations of a few light-toned particles in the area being scooped.
The image shows an area about 5 centimeters (2 inches) across. It is brightened to improve visibility in the shaded area.
A small bright object on the ground beside the rover at the “Rocknest” site. The object is just below the center of this image. It is about 1.3 centimeters (half an inch) long. The rover team has assessed this object as debris from the spacecraft, possibly from the events of landing on Mars.
The image was taken during sol 65 (Oct. 11, 2012).