Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mars Rover Pictures Raise 'Blueberry Muffin' Questions

Date:
February 10, 2004
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
NASA's Spirit rover has begun making some of its own driving decisions while its twin, Opportunity, is presenting scientists with decisions to make about studying small spheres embedded in bedrock, like berries in a muffin.

This sharp, close-up image taken by the microscopic imager on Opportunity shows a rock target dubbed "Robert E."
Credit: Image NASA/JPL/Cornell/US Geological Survey

NASA's Spirit rover has begun making some of its own driving decisions while its twin, Opportunity, is presenting scientists with decisions to make about studying small spheres embedded in bedrock, like berries in a muffin.

Both rovers are on the move. Late Sunday, Spirit drove about 6.4 meters (21 feet), passing right over the rock called "Adirondack," where it had finished examining the rock's interior revealed by successfully grinding away the surface. The drive tested the rover's autonomous navigation ability for the first time on Mars.

"We've entered a new phase of the mission," said Dr. Mark Maimone, rover mobility software engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. When the rover is navigating itself, it gets a command telling it where to end up, and it evaluates the terrain with stereo imaging to choose the best way to get there. It must avoid any obstacles it identifies. This capability is expected to enable longer daily drives than depending on step-by-step navigation commands from Earth. Tonight, Spirit will be commanded to drive farther on a northeastward course toward a crater nicknamed "Bonneville."

Over the weekend, Spirit drilled the first artificial hole in a rock on Mars. Its rock abrasion tool ground the surface off Adirondack in a patch 45.5 millimeters (1.8 inches) in diameter and 2.65 millimeters (0.1 inch) deep. Examination of the freshly exposed interior with the rover’s microscopic imager and other instruments confirmed that the rock is volcanic basalt.

Opportunity drove about 4 meters (13 feet) today. It moved to a second point in a counterclockwise survey of a rock outcrop called "Opportunity Ledge" along the inner wall of the rover's landing-site crater. Pictures taken at the first point in that survey reveal gray spherules, or small spheres, within the layered rocks and also loose on the ground nearby.

NASA now knows the location of Opportunity's landing site crater, which is 22 meters (72 feet) in diameter. Radio signals gave a preliminary location less than an hour after landing, and additional information from communications with NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter soon narrowed the estimate, said JPL's Tim McElrath, deputy chief of the navigation team.

As Opportunity neared the ground, winds changed its course from eastbound to northbound, according to analysis of data recorded during the landing. "It's as if the crater were attracting us somehow," said JPL's Dr. Andrew Johnson, engineer for a system that estimated the spacecraft's horizontal motion during the landing. The spacecraft bounced 26 times and rolled about 200 meters (about 220 yards) before coming to rest inside the crater, whose outcrop represents a bonanza for geologists on the mission.

JPL geologist Dr. Tim Parker was able to correlate a few features on the horizon above the crater rim with features identified by Mars orbiters, and JPL imaging scientist Dr. Justin Maki identified the spacecraft's jettisoned backshell and parachute in another Opportunity image showing the outlying plains.

As a clincher, a new image from Mars Global Surveyor's camera shows the Opportunity lander as a bright feature in the crater. A dark feature near the lander may be the rover. "I won't know if it's really the rover until I take another picture after the rover moves," said Dr. Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. He is a member of the rovers' science team and principal investigator for the camera on Mars Global Surveyor.

Opportunity's crater is at 1.95 degrees south latitude and 354.47 degrees east longitude, the opposite side of the planet from Spirit's landing site at 14.57 degrees south latitude and 175.47 degrees east longitude.

The first outcrop rock Opportunity examined up close is finely-layered, buff-colored and in the process of being eroded by windblown sand. "Embedded in it like blueberries in a muffin are these little spherical grains," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the rovers' scientific instruments. Microscopic images show the gray spheres in various stages of being released from the rock.

"This is wild looking stuff," Squyres said. "The rock is being eroded away and these spherical grains are dropping out." The spheres may have formed when molten rock was sprayed into the air by a volcano or a meteor impact. Or, they may be concretions, or accumulated material, formed by minerals coming out of solution as water diffused through rock, he said.

The main task for both rovers in coming weeks and months is to explore the areas around their landing sites for evidence in rocks and soils about whether those areas ever had environments that were watery and possibly suitable for sustaining life.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. Images and additional information about the project are available from JPL at http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov and from Cornell University at http://athena.cornell.edu.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Mars Rover Pictures Raise 'Blueberry Muffin' Questions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 February 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040210080552.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2004, February 10). Mars Rover Pictures Raise 'Blueberry Muffin' Questions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040210080552.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Mars Rover Pictures Raise 'Blueberry Muffin' Questions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040210080552.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA EDGE: OCO-2 Launch

NASA EDGE: OCO-2 Launch

NASA (July 25, 2014) NASA EDGE webcasts live from Vandenberg AFB for the launch of the Oribiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO) launch. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 25, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 25, 2014

NASA (July 25, 2014) Apollo 11 celebration, Next Giant Leap anticipation, ISS astronauts appear in the House and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space to Ground: Coming and Going

Space to Ground: Coming and Going

NASA (July 25, 2014) One station cargo ship leaves, another arrives, aquatic research and commercial spinoffs. Questions or comments? Use #spacetoground to talk to us. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins