Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

Spirit Finds Multi-Layer Hints Of Past Water At Mars' Gusev Site

This close-up image taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit's microscopic imager shows a section of the hole drilled into the rock dubbed "Mazatzal" after the hole was ground for a second time. The first drilling by the rover's rock abrasion tool left an incomplete hole, so a second one was performed. The blue arrow points to leftover portions of the dark rind that coats Mazatzal and the scrape marks left by the rock abrasion tool. The yellow arrow highlights the bright edges surrounding the leftover rind. The crack in the rock may have once contained fluids out of which minerals precipitated along its walls (red arrows). Mazatzal is a highly coated rock, containing at least four "cake layers": a top coat of dust, a pinking coating, a dark rind and its true interior. The observed area is 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) across. This image was taken on sol 85.
Image: NASA/JPL/USGS/Cornell
  • Today's Briefing Photos
  • Today's Briefing Video - 1 hour
  • Pasadena - Apr 02, 2004
    Clues from a wind-scalloped volcanic rock on Mars investigated by NASA's Spirit rover suggest repeated possible exposures to water inside Gusev Crater, scientists said Thursday.

    Gusev is halfway around the planet from the Meridiani region where Spirit's twin, Opportunity, recently found evidence that water used to flow across the surface.

    "This is not water that sloshed around on the surface like what appears to have happened at Meridiani. We're talking about small amounts of water, perhaps underground," said Dr. Hap McSween, a rover science team member from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

    "The evidence is in the form of multiple coatings on the rock, as well as fractures that are filled with alteration material and perhaps little patches of alteration material," McSween said during a press conference at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

    The rock, called "Mazatzal" after mountains in Arizona, lies partially buried near the rim of the crater informally named "Bonneville" inside the much larger Gusev Crater. Its light- toned appearance grabbed scientists' attention.

    After Spirit's rock abrasion tool brushed two patches on the surface with wire bristles, a gray, darker layer could be seen under the tan topcoat. The rock abrasion tool ground into the surface with diamond cutting teeth on March 26. Then, after an examination of the newly exposed material, it ground deeper into the rock two days later. A lighter-gray interior lies under the darker layer, and a bright stripe cuts across both.

    Dr. Jeff Johnson, a science team member from the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Team, Flagstaff, Ariz., said the stripe "seems to be a fracture that water has flowed through, potentially with minerals precipitating from that fluid and lining the walls of the crack."

    He and other scientists stressed that the interpretations are preliminary. "The team is, as always, trying to find time to digest these observations while also preparing for the next day's operations," Johnson said.

    Spirit's alpha particle X-ray spectrometer checked what chemical elements were close to the surface of untreated, brushed, once-drilled and twice-drilled patches. "Miracles, miracles, miracles. We have a lot of work to do," the instrument's lead scientist, Dr. Rudi Rieder of the Max Planck Institute, Mainz, Germany, exclaimed about the results. For example, the ratio of bromine to chlorine seen inside the rock is unusually high and possibly a clue to alteration by water.

    The final experiment on Mazatzal was to scrub the surface with the rock abrasion tool in a pattern of five circles arranged in a ring, with a sixth circle in the center. Besides creating a rock-art daisy, this task by the engineers of New York-based Honeybee Robotics, as well as JPL, produced a brushed patch big enough to fill the field of view of Spirit's miniature thermal emission spectrometer, said Dr. Steve Ruff of Arizona State University, Tempe.

    The tan outer surface appears to have a strikingly different mineral composition than the dark gray coating exposed by the brushing, but more time is needed to complete the analysis, he said.

    McSween proposed that the light outer coat, dark inner coat and bright veins could have resulted from three different periods of the rock being buried, altered by fluids and unburied.

    While scientists await transmission of additional data Spirit has collected about Mazatzal, the rover will be making its way toward the "Columbia Hills" about 2.3 kilometers (1.3 miles) away. Spirit left the rock and drove 36.5 meters (120 feet) early Thursday.

    Opportunity set a one-day driving record on Mars on March 27 by covering 48.9 meters (160 feet) toward a rock called "Bounce Rock" because airbag bounce marks show that the spacecraft hit it on landing day two months ago. "We're looking to break that record again very soon with longer and longer drives," said JPL's Chris Lewicki, flight director.

    Before moving on across the plains of Meridiani, though, Opportunity will complete an investigation it has begun of Bounce Rock. The rock is unlike any seen on Mars before, said Dr. Jim Bell, lead scientist for the rovers' panoramic cameras. "There are some shiny surfaces on this rock," he said, describing them as "almost mirrorlike."

    The two rovers' 18 cameras have now taken more than 20,000 images.

    Related Links
    Mars Rovers at JPL
    Mars Rovers at Cornell
    Search SpaceDaily
    Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

    New Phase of Exploration Beginning for Mars Rovers
    Pasadena - Mar 29, 2004
    NASA's Spirit will begin trekking toward hills on its eastern horizon in the next few days, entering a new phase of the rover's exploration of Mars just before its prime three-month mission ends and its extended mission begins, rover team members said today.

    Thanks for being here;
    We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

    With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

    Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

    If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

    SpaceDaily Contributor
    $5 Billed Once

    credit card or paypal
    SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
    $5 Billed Monthly

    paypal only

    Memory Foam Mattress Review
    Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
    XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

    The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.