The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission is focused on assessing the past or present habitability of Mars, through interrogation of environment and environmental records at the Curiosity rover field site in Gale crater. The MSL team has two methods available to collect, process and deliver samples to onboard analytical laboratories, the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument (CheMin) and the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite. One approach obtains samples by drilling into a rock, the other uses a scoop to collect loose regolith fines. Scooping was planned to be first method performed on Mars because materials could be readily scooped multiple times and used to remove any remaining, minute terrestrial contaminants from the sample processing system, the Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA). Because of this cleaning effort, the ideal first material to be scooped would consist of fine to very fine sand, like the interior of the Serpent Dune studied by the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Spirit team in 2004 . The MSL team selected a linear eolian deposit in the lee of a group of cobbles they named Rocknest (Fig. 1) as likely to be similar to Serpent Dune. Following the definitions in Chapter 13 of Bagnold , the deposit is termed a sand shadow. The scooping campaign occurred over approximately 6 weeks in October and November 2012. To support these activities, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) acquired images for engineering support/assessment and scientific inquiry.
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Lunar and Planetary Science Conference; Mar 18, 2013 - Mar 22, 2013; The Woodlands, TX; United States