NASA Mars Rover's First Soil Analysis Yields Surprises

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) 354-5011 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Donald Savage (202) 358-1547 NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
NEWS RELEASE: 2004-025 January 20, 2004
NASA Mars Rover's First Soil Analysis Yields Surprises
The first use of the tools on the arm of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit reveals puzzles about the soil it examined and raises anticipation about what the tool will find during its studies of a martian rock.
Today and overnight tonight, Spirit is using its microscope and two up-close spectrometers on a football-sized rock called Adirondack, said Jennifer Trosper, mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
"We're really happy with the way the spacecraft continues to work for us," Trosper said. The large amount of data -- nearly 100 megabits -- transmitted from Spirit in a single relay session through NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft today "is like getting an upgrade to our Internet connection."
Scientists today reported initial impressions from using Spirit's alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, Moessbauer spectrometer and microscopic imager on a patch of soil that was directly in front of the rover after Spirit drove off its lander Jan. 15.
"We're starting to put together a picture of what the soil at this particular place in Gusev Crater is like. There are some puzzles and there are surprises," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the suite of instruments on Spirit and on Spirit's twin, Opportunity.
One unexpected finding was the Moessbauer spectrometer's detection of a mineral called olivine, which does not survive weathering well. This spectrometer identifies different types of iron-containing minerals; scientists believe many of the minerals on Mars contain iron. "This soil contains a mixture of minerals, and each mineral has its own distinctive Moessbauer pattern, like a fingerprint," said Dr. Goestar Klingelhoefer of Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany, lead scientist for this instrument.
The lack of weathering suggested by the presence of olivine might be evidence that the soil particles are finely ground volcanic material, Squyres said. Another possible explanation is that the soil layer where the measurements were taken is extremely thin, and the olivine is actually in a rock under the soil.
Scientists were also surprised by how little the soil was disturbed when Spirit's robotic arm pressed the Moessbauer spectrometer's contact plate directly onto the patch being examined. Microscopic images from before and after that pressing showed almost no change. "I thought it would scrunch down the soil particles," Squyres said. "Nothing collapsed. What is holding these grains together?"
Information from another instrument on the arm, an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, may point to an answer. This instrument "measures X-ray radiation emitted by Mars samples, and from this data we can derive the elemental composition of martian soils and rocks," said Dr. Johannes Brueckner, rover science team member from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany. The instrument found the most prevalent elements in the soil patch were silicon and iron. It also found significant levels of chlorine and sulfur, characteristic of soils at previous martian landing sites but unlike soil composition on Earth.
Squyres said, "There may be sulfates and chlorides binding the little particles together." Those types of salts could be left behind by evaporating water, or could come from volcanic eruptions, he said. The soil may not have even originated anywhere near Spirit's landing site, because Mars has dust storms that redistribute fine particles around the planet. The next target for use of the rover's full set of instruments is a rock, which is more likely to have originated nearby.
Spirit landed in the Connecticut-sized Gusev Crater on Jan. 3 (EST and PST; Jan. 4 Universal Time). In coming weeks and months, according to plans, it will examine rocks and soil for clues about whether the past environment there was ever watery and possibly suitable to sustaining life. Spirit's twin Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, will reach Mars on Jan. 25 (EST and Universal Time; 9:05 p.m., Jan. 24, PST) to begin a similar examination of a site on the opposite side of the planet.
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. Images and additional information about the project are available from JPL at
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov
and from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., at
http://athena.cornell.edu/ .
-end-
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On 20 Jan 2004 17:24:53 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net (Ron) wrote:

How would you judge the possibility that this olivine could be from pallasites?
http://www.nmnh.si.edu/minsci/images/gallery/10.htm
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(Ron) wrote:

pallasites?
My understanding is that olivine does survive weathering caused by water and oxygne, two things that are somewhat lacking in the Martian environment. So it may be possible that the olivine is meteoritic in origin or it may just be present in the rock under a thin layer of soil. Only more measurements will reveal.
Go Spirit!
Jim
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and
Can I trouble you on a pointer to this subject - my oppinion is in general contrast to yours.
Carsten
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(Ron) wrote:

and
So
Didn't you mean to say "does not survive weathering"?
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The chemical weathering is thought to have a greater influence on Earth erosion, than mechanical breakdown.

snip
A professional photographer may take a step of using a shower to keep the air free of dust. The lack of precipitation to catch the fine dust, and an ocean to hide the dust in on Mars could in my opinion create an everpresent stock of very fine dust. Coulden't the relative larger surface-area of these very fine particles provide electric attraction on a particle to particle basis ? The particular 'clay-attraction' that breaks the linearity of ... the smaller the particle, the easier it is suspended ... may not be given at Mars as it is based on the structural presence of H, OH or H2O in the molecular structure. This is a speculation. But all clay-minerals has structural OH that is 'easily' lost by heating to 300 degrees leaving a xrd-amorph material - once lost, there is no sedimentary process (as on Earth) at present, to rejuvenate the mineral; but there is still the fine particulate material left though.
The Mars' atmosphere is 1% of the Earth's and there is no clues for present water-action, so both the mechanical breakdown and the sorting of sediment may not leave the same obvious imprint as here on Earth. For the non-windborn sediment: 1) The grain-size-distribution may resemble more a 'till' or random distribution, than a sorted distribution. 2) The grains are probably not rounded. These two reasonable assumptions should have an influence on the mechanical behavior of the soil. 'The angle of repose' of rounded versus angular grains has by some (no references) been given as an explanation for the specific behaviour of 'quick-sand' - here I offer it as an explanation to the uppersit effect.
There are two other points I would like to add: 1) The Earth soil developement may get some porosity when water dissolves minerals. This does not happen (in the same degree) on the present surface of Mars. 2) Vegetation/bioturbation provides a lot of the characteristics of Earth soil and cause additional porosity.
I will thus assume that the Mars soil could be very ... 'solid', 'massive' or 'packed' different than Earth's soil.
These considerations does not apply to the uppermost windborn sediment.
Some of the closest related soil on Earth may be a deflated desert: On Earth this would either contain obvious structuring from previous sedimentation - or be a very rocky lag or pavement as Earth-wind erodes far more effective. I cannot think of anywhere on Earth to look for an aged but 'unweathered' volcanic regolith.
/Carsten
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This is a multi-part message in MIME format. --------------050605020105020203030702 Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii; format=flowed Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
I agree with Carsten. Olivine is unstable in the presence of water. I have never seen olivine in a volcanoclastic sandstone older than the Pleistocene. Apparently NASA assumes that the present survace is quite ancient (1 by+). They have also detected olivine over wider areas from orbiter. Thus most of the geomorphology observed has probably not been sculpted by water. For some reason NASA holds tight to the water-on-mars hypothesis rather than some sort of multiple working hypothesis approach. Apparently present day martian water frost condenses at the poles in the winter and then sublimates during the spring--no liquid water. Ubiquitous olivine argues against even capillary bound water in the distant past. I will be willing to bet a case against a sixpack that, other than at the ppm level, free water will not be found in either Martain soil nor on the moon in the next decade.I will also bet that no strong positive evidence for life will be found on mars during the same decade. Carsten wrote:

--------------050605020105020203030702 Content-Type: text/html; charset=us-ascii Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"> <html> <head> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html;charset=ISO-8859-1"> <title></title> </head> <body text="#000000" bgcolor="#ffffff"> I &nbsp; agree with Carsten.&nbsp; Olivine is unstable in the presence of water.&nbsp; I have never seen olivine in a volcanoclastic sandstone older than the Pleistocene.&nbsp; Apparently NASA assumes that the present survace is quite ancient (1 by+).&nbsp; They have also detected olivine over wider areas from orbiter. Thus most of the geomorphology observed has probably not been sculpted by water.&nbsp; For some reason NASA holds tight to the water-on-mars hypothesis rather than some sort of multiple working hypothesis approach.&nbsp; Apparently present day martian water frost condenses at the poles in the winter and then sublimates during the spring--no liquid water.&nbsp;&nbsp; Ubiquitous olivine argues against even capillary bound water in the distant past.<br> I will be willing to bet a case against&nbsp; a&nbsp; sixpack that, other than at the&nbsp; ppm level, free water will not be found in either Martain soil nor on the moon in the next decade.I will&nbsp; also bet that no strong positive evidence for life will be found on mars during the same decade.<br> Carsten wrote:<br> <blockquote type="cite" cite="mid400ed344$0$1613$ snipped-for-privacy@dread14.news.tele.dk"> <blockquote type="cite"> <pre wrap="">One unexpected finding was the Moessbauer spectrometer's detection of a mineral called olivine, which does not survive weathering well. This spectrometer identifies different types of iron-containing minerals; scientists believe many of the minerals on Mars contain iron. "This soil contains a mixture of minerals, and each mineral has its own distinctive Moessbauer pattern, like a fingerprint," said Dr. Goestar Klingelhoefer of Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany, lead scientist for this instrument. </pre> </blockquote> <pre wrap=""><!----> </pre> <blockquote type="cite"> <pre wrap="">The lack of weathering suggested by the presence of olivine might be evidence that the soil particles are finely ground volcanic material, Squyres said. Another possible explanation is that the soil layer where the measurements were taken is extremely thin, and the olivine is actually in a rock under the soil. </pre> </blockquote> <pre wrap=""><!----> The chemical weathering is thought to have a greater influence on Earth erosion, than mechanical breakdown.
</pre> <blockquote type="cite"> <pre wrap="">Scientists were also surprised by how little the soil was disturbed when Spirit's robotic arm pressed the Moessbauer spectrometer's contact plate directly onto the patch being examined. Microscopic images from before and after that pressing showed almost no change. "I thought it would scrunch down the soil particles," Squyres said. "Nothing collapsed. What is holding these grains together?" </pre> </blockquote> <pre wrap=""><!---->snip
A professional photographer may take a step of using a shower to keep the air free of dust. The lack of precipitation to catch the fine dust, and an ocean to hide the dust in on Mars could in my opinion create an everpresent stock of very fine dust. Coulden't the relative larger surface-area of these very fine particles provide electric attraction on a particle to particle basis ? The particular 'clay-attraction' that breaks the linearity of ... the smaller the particle, the easier it is suspended ... may not be given at Mars as it is based on the structural presence of H, OH or H2O in the molecular structure. This is a speculation. But all clay-minerals has structural OH that is 'easily' lost by heating to 300 degrees leaving a xrd-amorph material - once lost, there is no sedimentary process (as on Earth) at present, to rejuvenate the mineral; but there is still the fine particulate material left though.
The Mars' atmosphere is 1% of the Earth's and there is no clues for present water-action, so both the mechanical breakdown and the sorting of sediment may not leave the same obvious imprint as here on Earth. For the non-windborn sediment: 1) The grain-size-distribution may resemble more a 'till' or random distribution, than a sorted distribution. 2) The grains are probably not rounded. These two reasonable assumptions should have an influence on the mechanical behavior of the soil. 'The angle of repose' of rounded versus angular grains has by some (no references) been given as an explanation for the specific behaviour of 'quick-sand' - here I offer it as an explanation to the uppersit effect.
There are two other points I would like to add: 1) The Earth soil developement may get some porosity when water dissolves minerals. This does not happen (in the same degree) on the present surface of Mars. 2) Vegetation/bioturbation provides a lot of the characteristics of Earth soil and cause additional porosity.
I will thus assume that the Mars soil could be very ... 'solid', 'massive' or 'packed' different than Earth's soil.
These considerations does not apply to the uppermost windborn sediment.
Some of the closest related soil on Earth may be a deflated desert: On Earth this would either contain obvious structuring from previous sedimentation - or be a very rocky lag or pavement as Earth-wind erodes far more effective. I cannot think of anywhere on Earth to look for an aged but 'unweathered' volcanic regolith.
/Carsten
</pre> </blockquote> </body> </html>
--------------050605020105020203030702--
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January 21, 2004
Robert Ehrlich wrote:

[blah blah blah ...]
That is in direct conflict with the observed geomorphology. Underlying that thin layer of last gasp volcanism are vast glacial plates. Only the surface is desiccated. Geez. The blind leading the deaf.
Thomas Lee Elifritz http://elifritz.members.atlantic.net
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On a sunny day (Wed, 21 Jan 2004 21:59:09 GMT) it happened Robert Ehrlich

You are so wrong,
http://www.home.zonnet.nl/panteltje/mars/easthills-bunny.jpg
for the latest from the mars rover :-) LIFE Note also in the picture the green, so the ground must be quite fertile. These things do not grow without water.
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I expressed that

However, Gerhard Einsele in "Sedimentary basins" concludes that dissolved sedimentload does generally not exceed suspended load, so my opinion is not valid. Both of these figures relates to running water and an assessment of temperaturedependant (waterfree) breakdown as may be at work on Mars may not have been measured for a possible comparison.
Carsten
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Earth
sedimentation -

effective.
Without considering viscositydifferences between CO2 and air I have calculated the falling-velocity of grains to be 2,6 times higher on Earth than Mars. This envalidates my point, that Earth-wind erodes more effective.
/Carsten
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Surely. Maybe one day NASA will wake up and land a probe on or near Mars' polar caps, so we can study something other than silly rocks and dust.
Rick
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I all looks eolian to me, plenty o' ventifacts and whatnot. Is it just me or was that other rover in a better spot? How about landing one in that canyon and checking out the stratigraphy there? I know it is probably really risky, but we are 2 for 2 with the bouncing airbag method, if we land the other one successfully then we should make a small armada of those things and send them all over with different tools (including some seismic). If we ditched the space station and shuttle and forgot about that humans to moon and then to mars thing we could do some killer science all throughout the solar system with the current budget. I know I will catch some shit for this, but it seems to be the most efficient method.
Jason
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<snip>

to
for
Conversely, if we concentrate on getting something profitable working in space, there will be plenty of resources for exploring the solar system with robots AND people.
Cheers!
Chip Shults
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throughout
in
with
If we could just get the damned robots to work correctly!
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<snip>

Must be union.
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Probably those lousy Promise flash memory chips.
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wrote:
: : <snip> :> If we ditched the space station and shuttle and forgot about that humans :> moon and then to mars thing we could do some killer science all throughout :> the solar system with the current budget. I know I will catch some shit :> this, but it seems to be the most efficient method.
: Conversely, if we concentrate on getting something profitable working in : space, there will be plenty of resources for exploring the solar system with : robots AND people.
Bingo! Those rovers are the best thing that NASA has done in 30 years, and on a budget. That abomination called the "International beer can" is the perfect image of "a mouse built to government specifications." The shuttle is a very good example of 1970's engineering. 2004?
DLC
: Cheers!
: Chip Shults
--
============================================================================
* Dennis Clark snipped-for-privacy@frii.com www.techtoystoday.com *
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and
shuttle
Mouse built to government specifications = elephant?
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Rick wrote:

I just saw that report. That is unfortunate but it does not change the fact that a cautious approach is the best one under these conditions. While it would be easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and say they should have hurried things initially, I think they did it right with what they had at risk. Having worked at JPL, I know all of them would have liked to get results as quickly as possible but there are overriding issues that call for this slower approach. Mars has not been an easy place for humans to land their machine on and explore.
-- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -- Jerry Petrey -- Senior Principal Systems Engineer - Navigation (GPS/INS), Guidance, & Control -- Raytheon Missile Systems - Member Team Ada & Team Forth -- NOTE: please remove <NOSPAM> in email address to reply ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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