Sol 1720, June 8, 2017, update by MSL scientist Christopher Edwards: I was the Surface Properties Scientist, or SPS on staff today. The SPS has an interesting job, in that the SPS helps Rover Planners (called RPs) assess the terrain around the rover with safety in mind, first and foremost.
There are two main jobs of an SPS. The first is to assess how likely the rover is to slip in its current position, called the Slip Risk Assessment Process (SRAP). Is it on a stable footing, like thin sand cover over smooth rocks, or is a wheel perched on a ledge? The reason this is important is because as MSL’s arm is articulated to conduct contact science, a perched rover wheel might slip and cause damage to the arm by contact between the turret and the ground. That would be bad! Today we were on a solid surface and passed SRAP without any concerns. [More at link]