Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Spirit Adds Clues About History Of Rocks In Martian Hills

Date:
November 10, 2004
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
All the scientific tools on NASA's two Mars Exploration Rovers are still working well, a full 10 months after Spirit's dramatic landing. The ones on Spirit are adding fresh evidence about the history of layered bedrock in a hill the rover is climbing.

NASA's Mars Exploration Spirit examined a rock dubbed "Uchben" in the "Columbia Hills" inside Gusev Crater.
Credit: Image courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

All the scientific tools on NASA's two Mars Exploration Rovers are still working well, a full 10 months after Spirit's dramatic landing.

Related Articles


The ones on Spirit are adding fresh evidence about the history of layered bedrock in a hill the rover is climbing.

"Our leading hypothesis is that these rocks originated as volcanic ash that fell from the air or moved in ground-hugging ash flows, and that minerals in them were altered by water," said Dr. Ray Arvidson of Washington University, St. Louis, deputy principal investigator for the mission.

"This is still a working hypothesis, not a firm conclusion, but all the instruments have contributed clues that fit," he said. "However, it is important to point out that we have just begun to characterize the textures, mineralogy and chemistry of these layered rocks. Other hypotheses for their origin focus on the role of transport and deposition by water. In fact, it may turn out that volcanism, water and wind have produced the rocks that Spirit is examining. We are just beginning to put together the big picture."

Both rovers completed three-month primary missions in April. NASA has extended their missions twice because they have remained productive longer than anticipated.

"We're still making good progress even though Spirit has two types of problems with its wheels," said Jim Erickson, rover project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We are working around those problems successfully, but they might be a sign of things to come, as mechanical parts wear out during our exploration of Mars."

One question for continuing investigations as Spirit heads for rocks higher in the "Columbia Hills," is what the environment was like when water altered the minerals. Possibilities include water in the volcanic magma mixture before the ash erupted, surface water transporting the ash while it was still loose after the eruption, and ground water soaking through the rocks that solidified from the accumulated ash.

Some clues for a volcanic-ash origin come from a layered rock dubbed "Uchben." Researchers pointed Spirit's microscopic imager at a spot on Uchben scoured with the rock abrasion tool. The images reveal sand-size particles, many of them sharply angular in shape and some quite rounded. The angularity is consistent with transport by an eruption. Particles carried across the surface by wind or water usually tumble together and become more rounded. Uchben's rounded particles may be volcanic clumps, may be concretions similar to what Opportunity has found, or may be particles tumbled in a water environment.

Evidence for alteration by water comes mainly from identification of minerals and elements in the rocks by the rover's Moessbauer spectrometer and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer.

The rovers' principal investigator, Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., said, "We have really made headway just in the last several weeks in understanding these rocks. The most likely origin is debris that blasted out of a volcano, was transported by air or water to its present location, and settled out in layers."

Opportunity, meanwhile, examined a lumpy boulder called "Wopmay" inside "Endurance Crater." The slope of the ground and loose surface material around the rock prevented Opportunity from getting firm enough footing to use its rock abrasion tool. Evidence from the spectrometers and microscopic imager is consistent with scientists' earlier hypothesis that rocks near the bottom of the crater were affected by water both before and after the crater formed. The evidence is still not conclusive, Squyres said.

Opportunity is heading toward the base of "Burns Cliff," a tall exposure of layered rock in the wall of the crater. However, if the rover encounters more of the poor traction found around Wopmay, planners may change course and drive up out of the crater.

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 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. "Spirit Adds Clues About History Of Rocks In Martian Hills." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 November 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041108031156.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2004, November 10). Spirit Adds Clues About History Of Rocks In Martian Hills. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 3, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041108031156.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Spirit Adds Clues About History Of Rocks In Martian Hills." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041108031156.htm (accessed March 3, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: SpaceX Launches Rocket, Satellites on Board

Raw: SpaceX Launches Rocket, Satellites on Board

AP (Mar. 2, 2015) SpaceX launched it&apos;s 16th Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Sunday night. The rocket was carrying two commercial communications satellites. (March 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Astronauts Leave Space Station for Third Spacewalk

Astronauts Leave Space Station for Third Spacewalk

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 1, 2015) NASA Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts perform their third spacewalk in eight days outside the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spacesuit Water Leaks Not An Issue On Latest ISS Walk

Spacesuit Water Leaks Not An Issue On Latest ISS Walk

Newsy (Mar. 1, 2015) Astronauts are ahead of schedule with hardware upgrades to the International Space Station, despite last week&apos;s spacesuit water leak scare. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nitrogen-Based Life Might Swim On Saturn's Largest Moon

Nitrogen-Based Life Might Swim On Saturn's Largest Moon

Newsy (Feb. 28, 2015) Researchers at Cornell University theorize life might exist on Saturn’s largest moon as nitrogen-based organisms. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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