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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Curiosity log 15 (playing in Rocknest)

Curiosity is already near the area known as Glenelg. On October 2 (Sun 56) arrive at the area known as Rocknest, where there are some small sand bank. Curiosity will spend two or three weeks at this site while making the first sample collection with robot arm systems. As of today, our rover has already surpassed the 400 runs, which is not bad.

During sol 57 (October 3), one of the wheels of Curiosity left a mark in the Martian sand that is very reminiscent of an astronaut's boot. The footprint would be subsequently analyzed with the camera and APXS MAHLI. Use the wheels of the rover to study the cohesion of the surface material and the internal structure of the soil is a routine from the MER missions.

On Sun 52 Curiosity took an overview of Glenelg, including Rocknest area, while during sol 55 widescreen Rocknest acquired another closer.

Before reaching Rocknest during sol 54 Rock studied Curiosity Bathurst Inlet by MAHLI camera and spectrometer APXS, both instruments on the end of the robot arm. Bathurst Inlet is a dark rock formed by grains or crystals of a size less than 80 microns, why have not been able to resolve individually with the camera MAHLI, reaching a resolution greater than about 20 microns per pixel (the MI of MERs cameras had a resolution of 31 microns per pixel and performing black and white images).

In the coming weeks Curiosity will sample sand Rocknest by SA-SPAH systems (Sample Acquisition, Processing and Handling Subsystem) and CHIMRA (Collection and Handling for In situ Martian Rock Analysis) in order to verify its operation and, step, clean of any possible terrestrial contamination, a necessary step before sending a sample 'real' instruments to SAM and Chemin. To achieve this it is necessary that the sample be as thin as possible, hence the interest in small Rocknest dunes.

The first hole of a Martian rock and its analysis by the star of the mission instruments, SAM and Chemin, is expected to take place within a month or so. After the trip to Glenelg now should be patient, because the coming weeks will be a bit 'boring'. Or probably not, because if something has made this mission so far is surprising when we least expect.

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