[From Emily Lakdawalla’s blog at The Planetary Society]
What a difference a few weeks can make! Suddenly, Curiosity is back to full field site operations, the kind it last enjoyed at the beginning of its traverse south from Murray buttes. A total of 562 sols elapsed between the previous successful drill at Sebina (sol 1495) and the newest drill site, Duluth (sol 2057). The rover successfully delivered sample to both laboratory instruments, CheMin and SAM, using its new feed-extended sample transfer (FEST) technique, took a self-portrait, and drove away on sol 2084. In all, it spent 30 days at Duluth — not bad, and likely to get much faster as long as nothing else breaks (knock wood). The team now plans as many as three more drill stops in the near future, up on top of Vera Rubin ridge.
The other main theme for this update is the global dust storm of Mars year 34. The storm began on the opposite side of Mars from Curiosity, and was first mentioned in a mission update during planning for sol 2074. Unlike poor solar-powered Opportunity, Curiosity doesn’t suffer any direct threat from a dust storm. There are some minor inconveniences, but any inconvenience is more than offset by the excitement of getting to study a global dust storm from the inside of it. Still, the whole Curiosity team is pulling for Opportunity to get through this. (Many team members, of course, serve both missions. I wonder if it feels good to use one rover to science the heck out of a storm that’s delivered a blow to the other one.) [More at link]