Have the MSL mission team members become overwhelmed by the iron-rich rocks on the ridge ?

Image from: https://mars.nasa.gov/msl/mission/mars-rover-curiosity-mission-updates/?mu=sol-2018-rock-garden
............................................................... Rock.garden.........................................................................
...................................(according to at least one of the team members) rock garden

Or has Curiosity to drive around in circles for some reason ?

Image from: https://mars.nasa.gov/imgs/2018/04/MSL_TraverseMap_Sol2020-full.jpgSol2020

  • $\begingroup$ Everything Curiosity ever does is to look at rocks. $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2018 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ @AtmosphericPrisonEscape Doesn't it look at dust devils or soils or clay minerals ? Besides outside the Vera Rubin Ridge there are also rocks worthwhile investigating. $\endgroup$
    – Cornelis
    Apr 15, 2018 at 20:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The government is lying to you and has secretly made contact with the Martian queen with Curiosity as our Emissary. Curiosity communicates to her via interpretive dance similar to Wall-e. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Jul 20, 2018 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe Curiosity did and was destroyed. $\endgroup$
    – Leo Pan
    Jul 23, 2018 at 17:35

2 Answers 2


There are several causes:

  1. delays due to operational problems.

When I last left the rover back in September, it had just climbed onto Vera Rubin Ridge. Since then, it has slowly maneuvered southish atop the ridge, encountering colorful rocks. Progress has occasionally been interrupted by various issues (uplink failures, arm faults, short drives, et cetera) that led some team members to joke that the ridge may be cursed. Nevertheless, the rover has driven about 600 meters, delivered multiple Ogunquit Beach samples to SAM and one to CheMin, and even run its first (intentional) wet chemistry experiment.

  1. Interesting stuff found on Vera Rubin ridge that requires time to investigate.

The rover hasn't moved very far since my last update. The team is taking its time to investigate "blue" patches of rock, which have unique properties. ("Blue" is in scare quotes because the actual color is gray, it just looks blue in the contrast-enhanced color HiRISE images that the team uses to plan their traverses.) They also have to wrap up investigative work on the sample that had been held in CHIMRA (a scoop of sand from the Ogunquit Beach site), and prepare the SAM laboratory analysis instrument to accept a new sample. SAM is power-hungry, and the rover has less available power than it used to; most activities involving SAM leave the rover with little power to do much else for the rest of the day.

  1. Vera Rubin was a primary target for the mission:

The team is excited to be exploring Vera Rubin Ridge, as this hematite ridge has been a go-to target for Curiosity ever since Gale Crater was selected as the landing site

The plan is to do several drill operations on Vera Rubin (from the same blog post):

If FED/FEST works, we could see as many as four drill sites on the top of Vera Rubin Ridge, Ashwin told me. They want to get the drill into "blue" material first, and then into the relatively red stuff nearby. Both of those rock types are in the upper part of the ridge. Then they want to drive to another spot, probably to the northeast, where they can drill into rock that forms the lower-elevation parts of the ridge. Finally, if things are going well, they could do a fourth drill spot in a location in the Murray formation right below the ridge materials. That might be too much to hope for, though, and obviously plans could change depending on their experience at the first attempted drill site.

This blog post confirms that some of the drill attempts on Vera Rubin failed, and were attempted again later after troubleshooting the drill. Also, one of the rock types they want to drill is proving difficult to find.

Only red Jura is left to be drilled. It may be difficult to find a spot soft enough for the drill, however. The rocks in the foreground on sol 2250 don’t look good for drilling to my eye -- the way that the veins have eroded deeply into the rock suggests to me that the red rock between the veins is quite hard. Ashwin told me that they’ll assess red Jura drill sites by brushing and preloading the drill against the rock to see if either tool leaves visible scratches before making a decision whether to drill or to bump to another potential drill site.

In the longer term, the plan is to ascend Mount Sharp (of which Vera Rubin Ridge is a part).

Here's a map from August, 2017 showing the long-term plan:

Curiosity path

This shows about 10 km of planned driving from the then-current position. So there is a long-term plan, but it can be amended when the rover finds something interesting that requires a closer look.

  • $\begingroup$ I've read in one of the missions blogs that they are very interested in going to the clay unit. But when will this be, do they have, for instance, a week ahead planning, or are they only investigating from day to day ? $\endgroup$
    – Cornelis
    Apr 16, 2018 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ I don't have time to dig into this right now, but one of the operational problems was the drill problem. It's possible they didn't want to leave Vera Rubin until they were able to use the drill again. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Jul 18, 2018 at 17:28

Curiosity is old and may have glitches which may be a reason it has stayed so long. And the rocks there are interesting because they are "colorful". Also, there seems to be a lot to study there.


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