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Spirit Wraps Up Work In Voltaire Region

The view from Husband Hill reveals a complex series of hills and crater rims.
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  • by Steve Squyres
    Mars Rover Principal Investigator
    Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 08, 2005
    It'll have to be a quick one this week. Spirit is just wrapping up work in the Voltaire region. We gave Voltaire the full treatment with all of the arm instruments at Bourgeoisie, and then we took a bunch of MI images of a rock right next door named Hausmann.

    Great stuff... rounded to angular pebbles embedded in a very fine-grained matrix. There's a chance this stuff is what you'd call an "impact breccia": the jumbled up debris thrown out from a high-velocity impact. But we're looking at a few other options as well. After Hausmann we moved on to Assemblee, another rock a few meters away that looked unusual to Mini-TES.

    We're collecting Moessbauer data on Assemblee as I write this, and we've just gotten down some very interesting APXS data and MI images. The MI images (which should be on the web pretty soon) show more small pebbles embedded in fine-grained matrix, but the APXS data look different from anything we've ever seen before. We'll be very interested in what the Moessbauer has to say about Hausmann.

    Starting Monday, we'll be making our move toward the summit. This will go more slowly than we'd like, since we're in restricted sols with Spirit now... so for awhile we'll only be able to drive every other sol. But each drive will take us closer to the top, and closer to what we're all waiting for... that view down the south side of Husband Hill.

    At Meridiani, Opportunity is on bedrock! It's the first bedrock that we've seen up close on that side of the planet in months, and it feels very good. We've just put in our first RAT hole in a very long time, and we'll be studying it for a little while before moving on.

    With all this bedrock around us now, we've suddenly got a very long to-do list with Opportunity. Has the bedrock changed in chemistry since Vostok (which was the last place we saw rock)? Has it changed in mineralogy? What kind of layering do we see here? How did all of these polygonal fractures that we see in the rocks form?

    And here's a big one: What is the composition of all those loose pebbles or cobbles we see lying around? We've been wondering about this one forever. Are they just pieces of sulfate-rich rock?

    Are they pieces of something different that's been excavated from deep below the surface... a rock unit we've never seen before? Or are they little pieces of meteorite? There's a lot of this stuff lying around here, and we're going to try to nail this question pretty soon.

    So I'm not sure when we'll get to Erebus... there's so much new science right around us that we're not in a big hurry. We've been starving for a long time, and suddenly we've got a feast in front of us.

    And I suppose that the biggest news of all is simply that there's so much bedrock here. Our fear as we approached the bright materials in the etched terrain was that it wouldn't be rock at all... that it'd simply be dust that would make our route southward tedious at best and impassable at worst. But it's not dust, it's rock.

    And now we believe that all the bright stuff to the south of us is rock as well. The etched terrain isn't going to be easy to get through, but it's not going to be the impossible quagmire that we had feared it might be. So southward we go... once we get a little science done.

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