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I have been contentedly posting my On Mars diaries on Astro Kos and I will happily continue to do so, but I thought it would be useful to have a group where the focus wasn't just on space, like Astro Kos, or science, like SciTech, but particularly on the exciting new science NASA is beginning to do on Mars right now and will continue to do for the next couple of years.

So, welcome to the new group, Kossacks on Mars, where from now on I will initially post my On Mars diaries along with the work of the fine Kossack writers who also have been covering Mars stories and the fascinating science happening right now on the Red Planet. We are only about a week away from some exciting new stuff from Mars as the chemistry and mineralogy instrument and the sample analysis instruments get their first workouts and the impact drill on the robot arm finds its first target.

If you would like to view the latest Curiosity Rover Update from NASA or read a transcript of it, step out into the tall grass. There is a directory of the previous diaries of this series out there, too. I'll probably stop doing that once I get everything republished to Kossacks on Mars.

I've also put one last quirky thought about the NASA video and a very cool picture out there.  


I'm Noah Warner, Tactical Uplink Lead for the Mars Science Laboratory Mission and this is your Mars Curiosity Rover Update.

Curiosity is currently at the Rocknest location inside Gale Crater. When we first arrived at Rocknest, we performed a Wheel Scuff Maneuver. This is our rover's version of kicking up the dirt with your hiking boot to determine if the Rocknest area was indeed a good first scoop target. The first scoop was performed on Sol 61 and the entire team was excited to see the Mast Cam images showing the scoop full of dirt as well as the video of the vibration activities performed with the turret mounted tools. This vibration allows the team to level out and remove any excess sample before closing the scoop and also provides some insight into the make up of the soil. Any large particles will tend to float up to the top as the entire sample is vibrated, much the same way you would shake out the marshmallows in your box of Lucky Charms.

Looking carefully at images, the team noticed a bright object lying on the ground just in front of the rover. We typically call something like this FOD, Foreign Object Debris. The ChemCam remote micro-imager captured a high resolution image of the object showing that it is most likely a benign piece of plastic, or shrink tube left over from the  a terminated wire. This could have possibly come from the rover or from the descent stage of the separation event during landing.

Curiosity processed the scoop sample through CHIMRA (the Collection and Handling for Interior Martian Rock Analysis machine on the end of the robot arm ed.) a labyrinth of passageways at the end of the arm that we use to sieve and portion the soil sample.

We did some internal sandblasting by vibrating the sample at different orientations of  the turret in order to remove any internal contamination.

The team dropped the first scoop off to the left side of the rover and in upcoming Sols we will make our first attempt to drop off sample to the observation tray and the ChemMin instrument.

We plan to be at Rocknest for the coming week to complete our scoop activities and the we'll get back on the road to Glenelg, where we will be looking for our first rock to drill.

That's your Curiosity Rover Report. Check back soon for more updates.  

Lucky Charms? Really? Does anybody really do that? Help me out here. I don't even add sugar to unsweetened cereals and have never intentionally eaten the sweetened ones. I'm not sure I've ever met a bowl of Lucky Charms in person. What would possess someone to want to shake all the marshmallows to the top? Are they magically delicious? Do they get you high? Those of you who know something about Lucky Charms need to help me out here. I mean, I get the physics of it; the psychology of it escapes me. I warned you the thought was quirky.

The picture is cool. It shows an area about two by three inches of the spot that Curiosity "kicked with its hiking boot" as the video put it. NASA's description of how the image was produced boggles me nearly as much as the image itself.

High-Resolution View of Cross-Section Through a Mars Ripple

This image shows the wall of a scuff mark NASA's Curiosity made in a windblown ripple of Martian sand with its wheel. The upper half of the image shows a small portion of the side wall of the scuff and a little bit of the floor of the scuff (bottom of this image). The prominent depression with raised rims at the bottom center of the image was formed by one of the treads on Curiosity's front right wheel.

The largest grains in this image are about 0.04 to 0.08 inches (1 to 2 millimeters) in size. Those large grains were on top of the windblown ripple and fell down to this location when the scuff was made. The bulk of the sand in the ripple is smaller, in the range below 0.002 to 0.008 inches (50 to 200 microns).

The full scuff mark is 20 inches (50 centimeters) wide, which is the width of Curiosity's wheel.

This image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) is the product of merging eight images acquired at eight slightly different focus settings to bring out details on the wall, slopes, and floor of the wheel scuff. The merge was performed on board the MAHLI instrument to reduce downlinked data volume

The image was acquired by MAHLI with the lens about 4.7 inches (12 centimeters) from the target. The pixel scale is about 0.002 inches (50 microns) per pixel. The image covers an area, roughly 3 by 2 inches (8 by 6 centimeters). The image was obtained on Oct. 4, 2012, or sol 58, the 58th Martian day of operations on the surface.

Emphasis mine.

Here are my previous diaries in this series inspired by NASA's new roving science lab on Mars, listed in the order I have posted them.
Mars Curiosity Rover -- Meet the ChemCam

Ray Bradbury is Honored Today on Mars

What Curiosity Can Do, Part 2.

What Curiosity Can Do on Mars and in this Election

Will Curiosity Mission Finally Vindicate the Life Science Results from the 1976 Viking Lander?

From Mars: SAM Takes a Deep Breath and Flexes his Arm

From Mars: Here's Looking At You, Kid.

On Mars: Super Rover has X-ray Vision

On Mars: Let the Science Begin

On Mars: We have found an Interesting Rock

On Mars: Obama and Biden Campaign This Week

On Mars: Curiosity Does Contact Science

On Mars: A River Ran Through It

On Mars: Sol 52 Update

On Mars: 2000 AD Space Robot Held Together with 2000 BC Technology

On Mars: Curiosity Stops to Do the Dishes

On Mars: One Scoop or Two

On Mars: NASA Briefly Distracted by Shiny Object

On Mars: Clues to the Red Planet's Wet Past Continue to Pile Up

Originally posted to Kossacks on Mars on Tue Oct 16, 2012 at 02:35 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech and Astro Kos.

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