Earlier this week Curiosity deployed a titanium scoop to make a precision line of sandcastles. It then reversed 20 metres, sped towards them and flattened them. Communication is now difficult. Control messages are returned marked ‘I am on annual leave. Please direct any queries to my colleagues Spirit or Opportunity’.
However, Curiosity has started transmitting via MoonPig. Three ‘wish you were here’ cards arrived at the space centre this week. One shows the vehicle sheltering under its solar umbrella. In the second, the Rover is buried up to its antenna in Martian sand. The third card is quite smutty, but has a message, ‘Sorry, this is the best I could find.’
The wayward machine has rolled up its rubber gaiters, exposing delicate components to the Martian sun. But apart from this, Curiosity appeared to be back to normal this morning, driving about collecting sand samples. It carefully tipped 30 differently coloured sands into a small glass vial, one after another, forming layered strata, before sealing the vial with a small plug.
Relieved that the Rover is again engaged in sample collecting, scientists are nonetheless puzzled that the vial is shaped like the Isle of Wight with a keyring attached.