A Curious Year on Mars—Long-Term Thermal Trends for Mars Science Laboratory Rover’s First Martian Year
Cucullu, Gordy C.
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By the time of this writing, Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Rover, has weathered four seasons in Gale Crater, just south of and approaching the foothills of the 5- km high Aeolis Mons, known as “Mount Sharp,” at 4.59o south latitude. The mission design included a much broader latitude range of 30o north to 30o south constraining some of the Rover environmental requirements and operations. To date, Curiosity has relayed over 150 MB of thermal telemetry. Curiosity has relayed over 150 MB of thermal telemetry through four seasons. The trends and idiosyncrasies revealed through four seasons of telemetry from Mars are discussed. The better-characterized thermal environment allows for less conservatism in operational models and increases the amount of science data collection. Examples include: the elimination of overheating concerns for some cameras and the use of the previous sol’s temperature telemetry along with the conservative soak temperature curve from the winter thermal model, to produce a custom heating prescription for the upcoming weeks thus increasing operation time and reducing heating times. This paper discusses the lessons learned for Rover operation as well as general idiosyncrasies discovered about the local environment—such as the effect of orientation on subsystem temperature variation, a regular morning and afternoon wind, ground and air microclimates with distinct temperature differences from other terrain, and how the Rover affects the local environment. This paper further documents and explains some of the interesting highs and lows of the temperature telemetry data as well as offers explanations for sudden temperature changes on board the Rover.