Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mars Rover Surprises Continue; Spirit, Too, Finds Hematite

Date:
June 28, 2004
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
On challenging slopes that NASA's Mars rovers began exploring this month, both Spirit and Opportunity have found new surprises for the folks back home.

This close-up image taken by Spirit highlights the nodular nuggets that cover the rock dubbed "Pot of Gold." These enigmatic features appear to stand on the end of stalk-like projections. Data from the rover's scientific instruments has shown that Pot of Gold contains the mineral hematite, which can be formed with or without water. Scientists are planning further observations of that and other rocks in the area to determine this mineral's origin.
Credit: Image courtesy NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

On challenging slopes that NASA's Mars rovers began exploring this month, both Spirit and Opportunity have found new surprises for the folks back home.

Spirit rolled up to a knobby rock just past where the "Columbia Hills" start to rise from the surrounding plain. It touched the rock with a mineral-identifying instrument at the tip of its robotic arm and detected hematite. Hematite identified from orbit was NASA's key reason for choosing Opportunity's landing site halfway around Mars from these hills within Gusev Crater.

Opportunity, continuing its descent into "Endurance Crater," has found unexpected similarities between lower layers of rock it is examining for the first time and an overlying layer at “Eagle Crater” where, months ago, the rover discovered evidence that water once soaked the area.

"It's gratifying how well these machines keep performing, considering they've now nearly doubled their original three-month missions on Mars," said Chris Voorhees, rover mechanical systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. By the end of next week, Spirit will have worked on Mars for half a year. It has driven more than three times the design requirement of one kilometer (0.6 mile). The only symptom of wear or aging on either rover so far is increased friction in one wheel on Spirit. The rover team at JPL is beginning to consider good sites for the solar-powered robots to spend the period of martian winter when reduced daily sunshine cuts power supply to a minimum. In the nearer term, though, team members are eager to follow through on the new scientific findings.

Spirit's hematite finding is in a rock dubbed "Pot of Gold," about the size of a softball. "This rock has a shape as if somebody took a potato and stuck toothpicks in it, then put jelly beans on the ends of the toothpicks," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the rovers' science instruments. "How it got this crazy shape is anyone's guess. I haven't even heard a good theory yet."

Dr. Doug Ming, a rover science-team member from NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, said, "There's apparently some type of weathering, a removal of material, but we're still trying to determine whether it's by chemical or mechanical processes."

Further study of Pot of Gold could also help scientists assess what the hematite in it tells about past environmental conditions. "Hematite can form in a few different ways. Most of them require water, but it can also result from a dry, thermal oxidation process," Ming said. "It was hematite identified from orbit that made Meridiani Planum a compelling place to send Opportunity. There, we've learned that the hematite is indeed part of a water story. At Gusev we're just at the starting stage."

After examining Pot of Gold with the microscopic imager and two spectrometers on Spirit's arm, the rover backed away from the rock to re-approach at a better angle for using its rock abrasion tool to expose the rock's interior. In the rough and slippery terrain, that maneuver took several days. The Other nearby rocks may also be inspected before Spirit resumes longer drives exploring the Columbia Hills area. Also, engineers are planning an attempt to redistribute lubricant in Spirit's balky right front wheel before the rover leaves its current vicinity.

Team members presented both rovers' status at a press conference at JPL today. Opportunity has driven far enough into the stadium-sized Endurance Crater to put it within arm's reach of three layers of rock beneath a sulfate-rich layer. That area is similar to what Opportunity first examined in the shallower "Eagle Crater," where it landed in January. "We're trying to systematically characterize the stratigraphy of the crater as we drive down, analyzing each unit chemically and mineralogically with all the instruments available," said Nicholas Tosca, a science-team affiliate from the State University of New York, Stony Brook. The first two newly accessed layers resemble the upper layer in having sulfate salts and spherical concretions; both are signs of formation of the rocks under wet conditions.

Squyres said, "I had thought we might see just basalt below the top salty layer, but instead it's salty as far as we've been able to see so far. Every time we see more sulfates as we work down this stack, it adds to the amount of water that was necessary to make this happen."

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 Surprises Continue; Spirit, Too, Finds Hematite." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 June 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/06/040627223018.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2004, June 28). Mars Rover Surprises Continue; Spirit, Too, Finds Hematite. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/06/040627223018.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Mars Rover Surprises Continue; Spirit, Too, Finds Hematite." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/06/040627223018.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

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
Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

AP (July 23, 2014) The Progress 56 cargo ship launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday. NASA says it will deliver cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
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