Opportunity’s two-year exploration of Victoria Crater – a half-mile wide and 250 feet deep – yielded a treasury of information about the planet’s geologic history and supported previous findings indicating that water once flowed on the planet’s surface, according to Steve Squyres, Cornell professor of astronomy and the principal investigator for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover mission. The rover is now heading south toward Endeavor crater, 8.5 miles away.
Many of those observations – of hematite spheres (“blueberries”), sulfate-rich sandstone and small chunks of rock containing kamacite, troilite and other minerals commonly found in meteorites – are consistent with Opportunity’s findings across Meridiani Planum. “It shows that the processes that we investigated in detail for the first time at Endurance crater [where Opportunity spent six months in 2004] are regional in scale, [indicating that] the kinds of conclusions that we first reached at Endurance apply perhaps across Meridiani,” said Squyres.
Still, there are a few key differences. The rim of Victoria Crater is about 30m higher than the rim of Endurance, said Squyres; and as the rover drove south toward Victoria the hematite blueberries in the soil became ever fewer and smaller. Rocks deep inside the crater, however, contained big blueberries – indicating that the rocks higher up had less interaction with water – and thus the water’s source was likely underground.
Detailed analysis of the Victoria data will occupy researchers for years to come, said Jim Bell, professor of astronomy and leader of the mission’s Pancam color camera team.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet in Gusev crater, Opportunity’s twin rover Spirit caused consternation with an unexplained computer reboot in April. That problem hasn’t recurred, but the rover is now stuck, possibly belly-deep, in a patch of fine Martian soil.
“The vehicle seems to be in a unique combination of soft, sandy material and slopes that we haven’t encountered yet,” said Bell. “Neither one has been particularly problematic in the past, but the combination of the two has us bogged down.”
In 2005 Opportunity faced a similar quandary when it found itself mired down for a month in a sand trap named Purgatory Dune.
“We’re not calling this purgatory for Spirit yet, but it has that potential,” Bell said. Rover team members – including Cornell senior research associate Rob Sullivan, who played a leading role in freeing Opportunity from Purgatory Dune – are using data from the rover and from NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to plan Spirit’s escape.
Opportunity, for its part, remains healthy after nearly 1900 sols (Martian days) on the planet – more than 1800 sols beyond its projected lifespan.
“We’re living on borrowed time,” Squyres said of both rovers. “But we’re pushing onward as hard as we can.”
The Jet Propulsion Lab, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA.
Blaine Friedlander | Newswise Science News
Further reports about: > Crater > Endeavor crater > Mars > Mars’ Geologic Past > Martian Winds > Meridiani Planum > NASA’s Kepler Mission > NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover mission > Victoria Crater > hematite spheres > meteorites > small chunks of rock containing kamacite > sulfate-rich sandstone > troilite
New Insight into Molecular Processes
21.11.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Exoplanet stepping stones
21.11.2018 | W. M. Keck Observatory
Innsbruck quantum physicists have constructed a diode for magnetic fields and then tested it in the laboratory. The device, developed by the research groups led by the theorist Oriol Romero-Isart and the experimental physicist Gerhard Kirchmair, could open up a number of new applications.
Electric diodes are essential electronic components that conduct electricity in one direction but prevent conduction in the opposite one. They are found at the...
Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.
Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
19.11.2018 | Event News
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
21.11.2018 | Life Sciences
21.11.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
21.11.2018 | Life Sciences