Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rocks Tell Stories In Reports Of Spirit's First 90 Martian Days

Date:
August 6, 2004
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
Researchers using Spirit's toolkit of geological instruments from early January into April read the record from rocks and soils in the rover's landing area and found a history of volcanic blanketing, impact cratering, wind effects and possible past episodes of scant underground liquid water.

One of Spirit's first images of its landing site at Gusev Crater.
Credit: Image courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Scientific findings from the NASA rover Spirit's first three months on Mars will be published Friday, marking the start of a flood of peer-reviewed discoveries in scientific journals from the continuing two-rover adventure.

Researchers using Spirit's toolkit of geological instruments from early January into April read the record from rocks and soils in the rover's landing area and found a history of volcanic blanketing, impact cratering, wind effects and possible past episodes of scant underground liquid water. Evidence for the water comes from mineral alteration in the veins, inclusions and coatings of some rocks. Eleven reports with 120 collaborating authors from around the world lay out details in the Aug. 6 issue of the journal Science.

"This is the first batch," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the science payload on both Mars Exploration Rovers. "You'll be seeing a lot more publications in months ahead and, no doubt, for many years to come based on information from Spirit and Opportunity. These machines just keep going and going, so the science just keeps coming and coming." Dr. Jim Garvin, NASA's Chief Scientist for Mars added, "This is the basis for beginning the remarkable scientific legacy of the rovers that will not only rewrite our textbooks about Mars, but also pave the way for human exploration."

The rovers completed three-month primary missions in April, then began bonus exploration in extended science missions. "Spirit and Opportunity have really done yeoman's work, still operating after more than twice as long as their original assignments. We don't know how much longer they'll keep working, but while they do we promise to keep them busy," said Jim Erickson, project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Both rovers were equipped and targeted to collect evidence about past environmental history, especially any history of liquid water, since life as we know it depends on water. Spirit is exploring inside Gusev Crater, an ancient Connecticut-sized impact basin that was selected as a landing site because it may have once held a giant lake fed by flows of water though a large valley that empties into the crater.

The new reports state that, in its first three months, Spirit found no evidence of lake-related (lacustrine) deposits. "Any lacustrine sediments that may exist at this location within Gusev apparently have been buried by lavas that have undergone subsequent impact disruption," says the leadoff paper by Squyres and 49 other rover science team members. Spirit has subsequently driven to a different location -- nearby hills over 3 kilometers (2 miles) away -- to continue exploring.

Dr. John Grant of the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, and co-authors report that the rocks on the plain that Spirit explored during its primary mission increased about fivefold in maximum size as the rover got closer to an old 210-meter (690-foot-wide) impact crater. The impact that excavated the crater brought volcanic rocks to the surface from as deep as 10 meters (33 feet). Several papers give evidence that rocks in the area are a volcanic type called basalt and bear the mineral olivine. These include reports by Cornell's Dr. Jim Bell with collaborators using Spirit's panoramic camera and by Dr. Dick Morris of NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, with collaborators using the Moessbauer spectrometer. Dr. Hap McSween of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and co-authors state, "These basalts extend the known range of rock compositions comprising the martian crust."

Dr. Ken Herkenhoff of Flagstaff, Ariz., offices of the U.S. Geological Survey and other scientists using Spirit's microscopic imager offer findings that rocks cut into by the rover's rock abrasion tool have coatings and bright veins apparently from mineral alteration after the rocks formed. Dr. Ralf Gellert of Max-Planck-Insitut-fur-Chemie in Mainz, Germany, and other users of Spirit's alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer report that bromine in the veins suggests the alteration resulted from exposure to water. Dr. Phil Christensen of Arizona State University, Tempe, and collaborators using Spirit's miniature thermal emission spectrometer say the rock's coatings are consistent with exposure to moisture while buried. Dr. Ray Arvidson of Washington University, St. Louis, and co-authors describe cohesive texture in soils and rock coatings, which they suggest could result from brief moist periods in the past.

Magnet experiments indicate almost all sampled dust particles in Mars' atmosphere contain magnetic minerals, according to a paper by Dr. Preben Bertelsen of the Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark, and others. Dr. Ron Greeley of Arizona State University and co-authors found that winds from the northwest grooved some rock surfaces and shaped sand ripples in the past. They report that the way rock dust accumulates during grinding by Spirit's rock abrasion tool shows that wind still comes from the same direction.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Images and additional information about the project are available from JPL at http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov and from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., 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. "Rocks Tell Stories In Reports Of Spirit's First 90 Martian Days." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 August 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/08/040806095918.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2004, August 6). Rocks Tell Stories In Reports Of Spirit's First 90 Martian Days. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/08/040806095918.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Rocks Tell Stories In Reports Of Spirit's First 90 Martian Days." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/08/040806095918.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

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
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
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