Compositional and Physical Properties of Materials Along Curiosity’s Traverse Inferred from CRISM Hyperspectral Data

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Abigail A Fraeman1, Raymond E Arvidson2, Bethany L Ehlmann1, John P Grotzinger1, Victoria E Hamilton3, Javier Martín-Torres4 and Maria-Paz Zorzano4, (1)California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States, (2)Washington University in St Louis, St. Louis, MO, United States, (3)Southwest Research Institute Boulder, Boulder, CO, United States, (4)Centro de Astrobiologia, Madrid, Spain
Orbital data over Gale Crater have been a key resource for providing a broader geologic framework for in situ observations made by the Curiosity Mars rover. These data are also an invaluable aid in strategic path planning, and are necessary for finding traverses to scientifically interesting locations while maintaining rover safety. Here we focus on predictions for Curiosity’s traverse to Mt. Sharp using along-track oversampled (ATO) Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) datasets. The high spectral and spatial resolution of this dataset provides important information about terrain physical properties and surface composition. We find that spectral variability along the route from Bradbury Landing to Mt. Sharp is dominated by variations in the flux of dark sand versus bright dust, and hypothesize spectral differences among aeolian material are likely due to variations in dust cover on darker aeolian material. We focus our investigation of CRISM data over the small-scale aeolian features along Curiosity’s traverse, and we couple this analysis with in situ data gathered during drives to determine the degree to which the variations in compositions and physical properties of aeolian materials influence the degree of rover slip and wheel sinkage when crossing these bedforms.