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[Fwd: Spirit Adds Clues About History of Rocks in Martian Hills]

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  • vgambino1@cox.net
    ... ... Martian Hills ... ADMINISTRATION ... 354-5011 ... Hills ... the ... climbing. ... as ... altered by ... University, St. ...
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 4, 2004
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      >
      > From: "NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory"
      <info@...>
      > Date: 2004/11/04 Thu PM 02:53:44 EST
      > To: "Vern Gambino" <vgambino1@...>
      > Subject: Spirit Adds Clues About History of Rocks in
      Martian Hills
      >
      > MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
      > JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
      > CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
      > NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE
      ADMINISTRATION
      > PASADENA, CALIFORNIA 91109. TELEPHONE (818)
      354-5011
      > http://www.jpl.nasa.gov
      >
      > Guy Webster (818) 354-6278
      > Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
      >
      > Donald Savage (202) 358-1547
      > NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
      >
      > News Release: 2004-269 November 4, 2004
      >
      > Spirit Adds Clues About History of Rocks in Martian
      Hills
      >
      > 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.
      >
      > "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 .
      >
      > -end-
      >
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