2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 202-11
Presentation Time: 10:45 AM


EDGETT, Kenneth S.1, YINGST, R. Aileen2, MINITTI, Michelle E.2, HEYDARI, Ezat3, ROWLAND, Scott K.4, HERKENHOFF, Kenneth E.5, KAH, Linda C.6, KENNEDY, Megan R.7, KREZOSKI, Gillian M.7 and MCBRIDE, Marie J.7, (1)Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technolgy, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109, (2)Planetary Science Institute, 1700 E. Fort Lowell Rd., Suite 106, Tucson, AZ 85719, (3)Department of Physics, Atmospheric Sciences, and Geoscience, Jackson State University, P.O. Box 17660, 1400 Lynch Street, Jackson, MS 39217, (4)Department of Geology & Geophysics, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI 96822, (5)US Geological Survey, 2255 N Gemini Dr, Flagstaff, AZ 86001-1698, (6)Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, 1412 Circle Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996, (7)Malin Space Science Systems, P.O. Box 90148, San Diego, CA 92191-0148

During its Primary Mission (August 2012 – June 2014), the Curiosity Mars rover operated on Aeolis Palus, a lowland in northern Gale between the crater’s north wall and a 5-km-high mountain of stratified rock, Aeolis Mons (Mt. Sharp). The area explored largely exhibited thinly-mantled to bare outcrops of wind-eroded sedimentary rock. Most of these were mafic fluvial standstones and conglomerates, as well as a mudstone (important in the context of NASA’s mission objective centered on geologic records of past, habitable environments). Eolian bedforms, usually of centimeters to decimeters height, were also encountered. MAHLI, mounted on the turret at the end of Curiosity’s 2-m-long robotic arm, is a color camera with a macro lens that can focus on targets at working distances from 2.1 cm to infinity. Typical imaging of rock, regolith, and eolian targets included color images, focus stacks, and stereo pairs at 16–22, 31, and 100 microns per pixel. While MAHLI science is conducted in a context provided by other rover and orbiter instruments, the images provided vital science and science-enabling observations, such as: (1) grain-scale rock textural analysis (e.g., grain size, shape, rounding, voids) which contributed to interpretations regarding rock type, facies, and diagenetic conditions; (2) examination of eolian sand deposits that permit a global understanding of fundamental properties and processes of eolian transport and bedform stabilization when compared to similar features at other Mars rover sites; (3) quantitative measurements to support placement of the rover’s drill and scoop; (4) imaging of rover wheel damage and images that contributed to identification and avoidance of terrain that might damage the wheels so the rover could proceed to and examine new outcrops; (5) consistent documentation of APXS analysis spots to support interpretation of geochemical data across three rover sites; (6) rover self-portraits to provide context for sample extraction sites; (7) imaging of other science instrument hardware to support their science and instrument health; (8) imaging in support of robotic arm operation and commissioning; (9) observations of landscape geomorphology and airborne dust; and (10) observation of the properties and configuration of eolian dust that settled on natural and rover hardware surfaces.