Because the saying goes, all the pieces that has a starting has an finish. Many college students in my lab have had the chance to work on the Curiosity mission during the last ten years and it has been one of many nice joys of my profession to see these college students develop into succesful and assured colleagues trusted by their friends the world over who work with them on the mission. However, inevitably, college students full their levels or transfer on to different initiatives and alternatives. For Charissa Campbell, a PhD scholar who has been engaged on the mission since 2016 she has a chance to steer the science case for an instrument referred to as MAPLE that would contribute to Environmental Science in a future planetary mission.
(Animation Above: the solar units at Gale Crater on Sol 312 of the mission)
By Charissa Campbell
Over the previous 5 years, I’ve been part of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL, Curiosity) workforce, particularly the Environmental working group (ENV). The ENV workforce is accountable for managing any environmental observations which incorporates any cloud or mud satan imaging. Throughout my time with the group I bought the chance to assist plan a number of sols (Martian day) of operations. This contains advocating for various ENV observations which might be used to characterize the setting round Curiosity’s location, Gale Crater.
Our analysis group helps preserve totally different ENV observations that use the Navigation Cameras (Navcams) to watch atmospheric aerosols. This contains the Zenith Film (ZM, an eight body film observing motion instantly above the rover), Supra-horizon Film (SHM, an eight body film wanting above the horizon), Line of Sight (LOS, a single picture capturing the crater rim), Section Perform Sky Survey (PFSS, 9 three body motion pictures observing aerosols at a wide range of pointings) and Cloud Altitude Commentary (CAO, 2 eight body motion pictures aspiring to seize cloud and shadow movement). The primary three (ZM, SHM, LOS) have been part of the mission for a number of Mars Years (MYs) and are nice for monitoring cloud and mud over the course of a MY. The PFSS and CAO are on the newer facet and are solely carried out within the cloudy season. The newest cloudy season simply completed and now we’re getting ready for the mud season which brings elevated mud and dust-devils within the crater.
Once I first began on the mission, I helped preserve the cadence of the ZM and SHM. This contains advocating their cadence (each 2-3 sols) and holding an eye fixed out for any aerosol exercise. The cloudy season on Mars could be very constant yr to yr so it’s comparatively straightforward to foretell once we’d count on to see extra exercise. Coming as much as my first cloudy season, I discovered a pair of early morning motion pictures that captured wispy clouds like Mares’ Tails seen right here on Earth (proven under). The distinctiveness and sweetness of those clouds earned a press launch (https://mars.nasa.gov/sources/8866/clouds-sailing-overhead-on-mars-enhanced/?website=msl). Since I used to be nonetheless contemporary on the mission, I used to be excited and anxious for the chance. It acquired loads of press and I loved studying the varied feedback left by the general public.
Over the subsequent few years I continued to advocate for ENV observations however I used to be additionally given the chance to assist develop a brand new remark. On sol 1787 a Mud-Satan Film (DDM) was aimed toward Mt. Sharp (Aeolis Mons) and as an alternative of capturing dust-devils, it noticed shadows transferring throughout the mountain. This was brought on by clouds transferring overhead which was confirmed by the ZM that adopted. A DDM pointed at Mt. Sharp posed a novel alternative to measure the direct velocity and altitude of the overhead clouds by figuring out how briskly the shadows transfer with respect to the mountain. Digital Terrain Fashions (DTMs) have been created for Mars which offer an x, y, z coordinate for each level in Gale Crater. By noting the place on the mountain the shadow begins and ends between the primary and final frames, a velocity could be calculated. When a paired ZM is used to calculate the angular spacing and velocity of the clouds above, we are able to get the rate and altitude of the clouds. Sometimes, this parameter is discovered utilizing a lidar which was demonstrated by the Phoenix lander (https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/photos/press/Lidar_Fall_Streaks_SD_001.html). Nonetheless, Curiosity isn’t outfitted with a lidar so we should use different approaches to calculate altitude.
Taking what we realized concerning the DDM and ZM mixture, we went forward and created the CAO. Inside this mother or father remark is the Cloud Shadow Film (CSM) and ZM. The CSM could be the DDM however optimized to carry out shadows. This contains growing the body dimension for extra mountain protection. This body dimension was additionally utilized to the ZM. As soon as the CAO was optimized , it was examined on Curiosity earlier than changing into an official remark that the ENV workforce can plan. As of at present, we have now formally accomplished 3 MY price of CAO information.
Analyzing the newest set confirmed a novel pair of shadow and clouds that weren’t seen earlier than in a CAO. Proven under, each motion pictures present turbulent clouds with massive shadows that move over the rover earlier than going up the mountain. I made a decision to showcase this set at the newest Curiosity workforce assembly the place I confirmed my cloud altitude outcomes. The flicks gave the impression to be a success that they grew to become a press launch (https://mars.nasa.gov/sources/26557/curiosity-captures-drifting-clouds-on-dec-12-2021/?website=msl). It made me extraordinarily pleased to have one other set of films launched by JPL. I will likely be leaving the Curiosity workforce within the subsequent few months to give attention to my different PhD initiatives, so it’s bittersweet to begin and finish my time on the mission with a press launch.
It’s been a terrific honour to work with Curiosity information and particularly assist develop an remark that may proceed to be captured in future cloud seasons. I need to thank the Curiosity workforce and all the present and previous PVL members which have helped me. Good luck Curiosity! I hope you’ve gotten many extra cloudy seasons on the horizon.