Curiosity Reaches Out with Martian Handshake and Contemplates New Drilling at Habitable Site

by Ken Kremer on May 11, 2013

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NASA’s Curiosity rover reaches out in ‘handshake’ like gesture to welcome the end of solar conjunction and resumption of contact with Earth. This mosaic of images was snapped by Curiosity on Sol 262 (May 2) and shows her flexing the robotic arm with Mount Sharp in the background. Two drill holes are visible on the surface bedrock below the robotic arm’s turret. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer-(kenkremer.com)/Marco Di Lorenzo

NASA’s Curiosity rover reaches out in ‘handshake’ like gesture to welcome the end of solar conjunction and resumption of contact with Earth. This mosaic of images was snapped by Curiosity on Sol 262 (May 2, 2013) and shows her flexing the robotic arm with dramatic scenery of Mount Sharp in the background. Two drill holes are visible on the surface bedrock below the robotic arm’s turret where she discovered a habitable site.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer-(kenkremer.com)/Marco Di Lorenzo

NASA’s Curiosity rover has reached out in a Martian ‘handshake’ like gesture welcoming the end of solar conjunction that marks the resumption of contact with her handlers back on Earth – evidenced in a new photo mosaic of images captured as the robot and her human handlers contemplate a short traverse to a 2nd drilling target in the next few days.

“We’ll move a small bit and then drill another hole,” said John Grotzinger to Universe Today. Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., leads NASA’s Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory mission.

The rover science team and Grotzinger have selected that 2nd drill location and are itching to send the rover on her way to the bumpy spot called “Cumberland.”

Cumberland lies about nine feet (2.75 meters) west of the “John Klein’ outcrop where Curiosity conducted humanity’s first ever interplanetary drilling on the alien Martian surface in February 2013.

“We’ll confirm what we found in the John Klein hole,” Grotzinger told me.

Curiosity discovered a habitable zone at the John Klein drill site.

After pulverizing and carefully sifting the John Klein drill tailings, a powered, aspirin sized portion of the gray rock was fed into a trio of inlet ports atop the rovers deck and analyzed by Curiosity’s duo of miniaturized chemistry labs named SAM and Chemin inside her belly to check for the presence of organic molecules and determine the inorganic chemical composition.

‘Cumberland’ and ‘John Klein’ are patches of flat-lying bedrock shot through with pale colored calcium sulfate hydrated mineral veins and a bumpy surface texture at her current location inside the ‘Yellowknife Bay’ basin.

This patch of bedrock, called "Cumberland," has been selected as the second target for drilling by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. The rover has the capability to collect powdered material from inside the target rock and analyze that powder with laboratory instruments. The favored location for drilling into Cumberland is in the lower right portion of the image. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This patch of bedrock, called “Cumberland,” has been selected as the second target for drilling by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity. The rover has the capability to collect powdered material from inside the target rock and analyze that powder with laboratory instruments. The favored location for drilling into Cumberland is in the lower right portion of the image. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“The bumpiness is due to erosion-resistant nodules within the rock, which have been identified as concretions resulting from the action of mineral-laden water,” NASA said in a statement.

Curiosity snapped high resolution color images of Cumberland on Sol 192 (Feb. 19, 2013) as part of the ongoing data collection campaign to put Yellowknife Bay into scientific context and search for future drill targets.

The John Klein bore hole (drilled on Feb 8, 2013, Sol 182) is visible in our new photo mosaic above created by myself and my imaging partner Marco Di Lorenzo. It was stitched from a ‘Martian baker’s dozen’ of raw images captured on May 2 (Sol 262). and shows the hand-like tool turret positioned above the first pair of drill holes.

Our new Sol 262 mosaic illustrates that Curiosity is again fully functional and flexing the miracle arm following a relaxing month long period of ‘Spring Break’ when there was no two- way communication with Earth during April’s solar conjunction.

The Sol 262 photo mosaic was originally featured at NBC News by Cosmic Log science editor Alan Boyle who likened it to a future Martian handshake in this cleverly titled story; “Curiosity’s ‘hand’ outstretched on Mars: Will humans ever shake it?”

See below our Sol 169 panoramic context view of Curiosity inside Yellowknife Bay collecting spectroscopic science measurements at the John Klein outcrop.

Curiosity accomplished historic 1st drilling into Martian rock at John Klein outcrop on Feb 8, 2013 (Sol 182), shown in this context mosaic view of the Yellowknife Bay basin taken on Jan. 26 (Sol 169) - back dropped with Mount Sharp - where the robot is currently working. Curiosity will bore a 2nd drill hole soon following the resumption of contact with the end of the solar conjunction period. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo

Curiosity accomplished historic 1st drilling into Martian rock at John Klein outcrop on Feb 8, 2013 (Sol 182), shown in this context mosaic view of the Yellowknife Bay basin taken on Jan. 26 (Sol 169) – back dropped with Mount Sharp – where the robot is currently working. Curiosity will bore a 2nd drill hole soon following the resumption of contact with the end of the solar conjunction period. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer -(kenkremer.com)/Marco Di Lorenzo

Curiosity found that the fine-grained, sedimentary mudstone rock at the John Klein worksite inside the shallow depression known as Yellowknife Bay possesses significant amounts of phyllosilicate clay minerals; indicating the flow of nearly neutral liquid water and a habitat friendly to the possible origin of simple Martian microbial life forms eons ago.

Grotzinger also explained to Universe Today that Curiosity will soon to more capable than ever before.

“We’ll spend the next few sols transitioning over to new flight software that gives the rover additional capabilities’” said Grotzinger.

“Then we’ll spend some time testing out the science instruments on the B-side rover compute element – that we booted to before conjunction.”

Curiosity will spend a month or more at the Cumberland site to collect and completely analyze the drill tailings.

Then she’ll resume her epic trek to mysterious Mount Sharp, the 3.5 mile (5 km) high mountain that dominates her landing site and is her ultimate driving inside Gale Crater according to Grotzinger.

“After that [Cumberland] we’re likely to begin the trek to Mt. Sharp, though we’ll stop quickly to look at a few outcrops that we passed by on the way into Yellowknife Bay,” Grotzinger explained to Universe Today.

The Shaler outcrop passed by on the path into Yellowknife Bay is high on the list of stops during the year long journey to Mount Sharp, says Grotzinger. Read more details about Shaler in a new BBC story by Jonathan Amos – here – featuring our Shaler outcrop mosaic.

And don’t forget to “Send Your Name to Mars” aboard NASA’s MAVEN orbiter- details here. Deadline: July 1, 2013

Ken Kremer

…………….
Learn more about Mars, Curiosity and NASA missions at Ken’s upcoming lecture presentation:

June 12: “Send your Name to Mars” and “Antares Rocket Launch from Virginia”; Franklin Institute and Rittenhouse Astronomical Society, Philadelphia, PA, 8 PM.

This map shows the location of "Cumberland," the second rock-drilling target for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, in relation to the rover's first drilling target, "John Klein," within the southwestern lobe of a shallow depression called "Yellowknife Bay." Cumberland, like John Klein, is a patch of flat-lying bedrock with pale veins and bumpy surface texture. The bumpiness is due to erosion-resistant nodules within the rock, which have been identified as concretions resulting from the action of mineral-laden water. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

This map shows the location of “Cumberland,” the second rock-drilling target for NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, in relation to the rover’s first drilling target, “John Klein,” within the southwestern lobe of a shallow depression called “Yellowknife Bay.” Cumberland, like John Klein, is a patch of flat-lying bedrock with pale veins and bumpy surface texture. The bumpiness is due to erosion-resistant nodules within the rock, which have been identified as concretions resulting from the action of mineral-laden water. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

docja May 12, 2013 at 12:10 PM

What are the dust devil-like features in the background of the first image? Are they artifacts of making the mosaic?

Ken Kremer May 12, 2013 at 12:55 PM

no dust devils just artifacts

Lazlo Long May 12, 2013 at 6:24 PM

Curiosity rocks !! Keep up the good work NASA..

Spectre Web May 14, 2013 at 10:33 PM

You do not dare to send me threatening e mails again….

Spectre Web May 15, 2013 at 12:57 AM

Here I still see this guy who threatened me and insulted me… but his comments were not deleted…. I mean the site admin deleted his insults but see that only adulatory comments are kept while comments that disagree with the article ar kept….

Lazlo Long May 18, 2013 at 9:57 PM

I wouldn’t read too much into it. I apologize for being such a jerk. I was venting after a long day at work and you were the target. I’m normally very laidback.
That said, yes you have a right to disagree. We have a right to disagree.
But the site has the right to delete any comments they want.

Ok then spectre, take care, good luck and may all your banter be friendly .

Spectre Web May 21, 2013 at 5:49 PM

OK… Yes, they do have that right but if they want to be a bigger site they would need to stop doing deleting comments that do not agree with them…

Lazlo Long May 12, 2013 at 7:07 PM

Besides fresh material you really need to move out of your mother’s spare room and for God’s sake get a girl friend.
I know your anal retentive but you really need to get away from this troll gig. You just don’t cut it.

Spect Tre May 12, 2013 at 7:17 PM

I’m sorry I don’t speak monkey…. but there are researchers that are making better efforts to communicate with monkeys like the ones on this site. Using iPads…. the researchers may make a monkeys “talk” to communicate its needs such as “I wnat more bananas” Your monkeys brain is not powerful enough to process linguistic input and to know…. that’s why you monkeys keep replying…. only monkeys like you, get into something that is obviously futile….. Go to sleep now, monkey… so you can dream with your monkey friends….

Lazlo Long May 12, 2013 at 7:27 PM

With such brilliant lexicon I’m surprised your not posting on the mensa forums.
Tell your mom and your sister hi for me..

Spect Tre May 12, 2013 at 7:38 PM

I hear a monkey still lurking around…. Too bad I can’t communicate with monkeys that believe they’re humans…… Maybe those monkeys can go watch “Planet of the Apes” so they learn some Human manners… Sit monkey sit, sit monkey sit. eat your bananas….

Spectre Web May 14, 2013 at 10:47 PM

At this point my comments were toward ignoring him and recommended him to stop replying, I did not have an interest in discussing anything with smone, who’s just insulting people.

Spectre Web May 14, 2013 at 10:44 PM

He gets more creative with his insults and aggressive behavior

Spect Tre May 12, 2013 at 7:52 PM

Fake, fake,,,,, pictures of Atacama desert…. Studio made pictures….. who’s directing the movie????? He/she should get an Oscar….

Lazlo Long May 12, 2013 at 9:01 PM

Hey Monkey boy check your email

Spectre Web May 14, 2013 at 10:48 PM

It is at this point when I received I consider a threat from this individual on my inbox ……

Really disappointing…

Spect Tre May 12, 2013 at 9:25 PM

Nice pictures from planet Earth…. Where is it? So I can ride in my Land Rover…

Aqua4U May 13, 2013 at 5:43 AM

That last image, the overhead view map is the best I’ve seen for this location… The place is starting to look familiar? Sweet! Thanks for the update! Ahem.. Drill Baby Drill!

Guest May 14, 2013 at 10:22 PM

One

Spectre Web May 14, 2013 at 10:30 PM

It is really disappointing to know that a so-called serious site like this one blocks comments that are not favorable…. Why having a comment section at all? My comments were blocked by the site admin,,,, I originally posted with my gmail account… then replied to another reply from user Lazlo Long who kept replying after I asked him to stop… However, This guys comments were not erased or blocked because his comments are favorable to this website….. The user Lazo Long when so far as to emailing me to my gmail account to threaten me….. Do not worry Universe Today…. you will be known for what you are…. As for blocking me… well the measure is futile…. because my opinion will be posted here and elsewhere on the Web and I will be making clear reference to your anti-democratic comment policy……….

Spectre Web May 14, 2013 at 10:36 PM

So comments with insult like “stupid” are not deleted or blocked but comment that do not kiss the writers opinion are blocked… h

Spectre Web May 14, 2013 at 10:37 PM

Insults and more insult and they are not deleted….

Spectre Web May 14, 2013 at 10:37 PM

More insults

Spectre Web May 14, 2013 at 10:37 PM

He keeps his aggressive behavior and the site admin does not block him

Spectre Web May 14, 2013 at 10:43 PM

First insult

Spectre Web May 14, 2013 at 10:44 PM

Second insult

Spectre Web May 14, 2013 at 11:11 PM

Dear site admin… no need to displace my comments…. plus I already recorded the behavior from the user that was insulting me…..

Spectre Web May 14, 2013 at 11:15 PM

My original opinion was a sarcastic joke saying this whole thing about the Mars rover was fake and that it was filmed in a studio here on Earth… I think everyone has a right to express his opinion even when the opinion is contrary to the writer and or editor of the article… and if I consider the employees of a space agencies to be this or that way, my way of thinking should be respected…..

Guest May 15, 2013 at 12:49 AM

Wow

Spectre Web May 15, 2013 at 12:55 AM

Wow! My opinion was deleted again by the site admin. Well, that proves my saying that this website deletes comments that do not agree with the writer of the article or the editor…. how democratic [sarcasm] Do not worry I did record the issue and I will tell about your ridiculous comment policy….. Universe Today wants to grow and be big …. but in order for you guys to achieve this, you need to be respectful of people’s opinions and not block user who disagree with you…. What a shame…. I I will publish the issue on my website and popular social networking site….. You are just not smart…..

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