Terrain physical properties derived from orbital data and the first 360 sols of Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover observations in Gale Crater

Research areas:
Year:
2014
Authors:
  • R. E. Arvidson
  • P. Bellutta
  • F. Calef
  • A. A. Fraeman
  • J. B. Garvin
  • O. Gasnault
  • J. A. Grant
  • J. P. Grotzinger
  • V. E. Hamilton
  • M. Heverly
  • K. A. Iagnemma
  • J. R. Johnson
  • N. Lanza
  • Stéphane Le Mouélic
  • Nicolas Mangold
  • D. W. Ming
  • M. Mehta
  • R. V. Morris
  • H. E. Newsom
  • N. Renno
  • D. Rubin
  • J. Schieber
  • R. Sletten
  • N. T. Stein
  • F. Thuillier
  • A. R. Vasavada
  • J. Vizcaino
  • R. C. Wiens
Journal:
JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-PLANETS
Volume:
119
Number:
6
Pages:
1322-1344
Month:
June
ISSN:
2169-9097
Abstract:
Physical properties of terrains encountered by the Curiosity rover
during the first 360 sols of operations have been inferred from analysis
of the scour zones produced by Sky Crane Landing System engine plumes,
wheel touch down dynamics, pits produced by Chemical Camera (ChemCam)
laser shots, rover wheel traverses over rocks, the extent of sinkage
into soils, and the magnitude and sign of rover-based slippage during
drives. Results have been integrated with morphologic, mineralogic, and
thermophysical properties derived from orbital data, and Curiosity-based
measurements, to understand the nature and origin of physical properties
of traversed terrains. The hummocky plains (HP) landing site and
traverse locations consist of moderately to well-consolidated bedrock of
alluvial origin variably covered by slightly cohesive, hard-packed
basaltic sand and dust, with both embedded and surface-strewn rock
clasts. Rock clasts have been added through local bedrock weathering and
impact ejecta emplacement and form a pavement-like surface in which only
small clasts (<5 to 10 cm wide) have been pressed into the soil during
wheel passages. The bedded fractured (BF) unit, site of Curiosity's
first drilling activity, exposes several alluvial-lacustrine bedrock
units with little to no soil cover and varying degrees of lithification.
Small wheel sinkage values (<1 cm) for both HP and BF surfaces
demonstrate that compaction resistance countering driven-wheel thrust
has been minimal and that rover slippage while traversing across
horizontal surfaces or going uphill, and skid going downhill, have been
dominated by terrain tilts and wheel-surface material shear modulus
values.