A look back, part II: The drilling campaign of the Curiosity rover during the Mars Science Laboratory’s second and third Martian years

1William Abbey et al. (>10)
Icarus (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2020.113885]
1Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109, United States of America
Copyright Elsevier

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, Curiosity, completed its second Martian year, 1337 sols (1374 Earth days), of operation on May 11, 2016, and its third Martian year, 2006 sols (2061 Earth days), of operation on March 28, 2018. During this time the rover successfully drilled twelve full depth drill holes into the Martian surface and analyzed the recovered material using onboard instruments, giving us new insights into the potential habitability and geologic diversity of ancient Mars. During the second Martian year, four holes were drilled into the mudstones of the Murray formation: ‘Confidence Hills’ (Sol 759), ‘Mojave 2’ (Sol 882), ‘Telegraph Peak’ (908) & ‘Buckskin’ (Sol 1060); while four more holes were drilled into the sandstones of the Stimson formation: ‘Big Sky’ (Sol 1119), ‘Greenhorn’ (Sol 1137), ‘Lubango’ (Sol 1320) & ‘Okoruso’ (Sol 1332). During the third Martian year, four additional holes were drilled into the Murray formation: ‘Oudam’ (Sol 1361), ‘Marimba’ (Sol 1422), ‘Quela’ (Sol 1464) & ‘Sebina’ (Sol 1495). In this paper, we will give a brief overview of the rover sampling hardware and nominal drilling protocols, followed by a discussion of how these protocols were refined and altered early during the course of Curiosity’s second year on Mars. In addition, we will describe the ‘Bonanza King’ (Sol 724) drill campaign, the mission’s first ‘successful failure’, and how it influenced these changes. We will also briefly discuss the events leading up to the drill feed fault on Sol 1536, which resulted in suspension of all drill activities for the remainder of the third Martian year. Finally, we will present scientific highlights obtained from each drill site utilizing MSL’s onboard instrumentation (SAM & CheMin), results enabled by the drill’s ability to excavate sample at depth and transfer it to these instruments.


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