Spirit Flexes Its Arm To Use Microscope On Mars' Soil

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: 2004-022 January 16, 2004
Spirit Flexes Its Arm To Use Microscope On Mars' Soil
NASA's Spirit rover reached out with its versatile robotic arm early today and examined a patch of fine-grained martian soil with a microscope at the end of the arm.
"We made our first use of the arm and took the first microscopic image of the surface of another planet," said Dr. Mark Adler, Spirit mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
The rover's microscopic imager, one of four tools on a turret at the end of the arm, serves as the functional equivalent of a field geologist's hand lens for examining structural details of rocks and soils.
"I'm elated and relieved at how well things are going. We got some great images in our first day of using the microscopic imager on Mars," said Dr. Ken Herkenhoff of the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Team, Flagstaff, Ariz. Herkenhoff is the lead scientist for the microscopic imagers on Spirit and on Spirit's twin Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity.
The microscope can show features as small as the width of a human hair. While analysis of today's images from the instrument has barely begun, Herkenhoff said his first impression is that some of the tiny particles appear to be stuck together.
Before driving to a selected rock early next week, Spirit will rotate the turret of tools to use two spectrometer instruments this weekend on the same patch of soil examined by the microsope, said Jessica Collisson, mission flight director. The Mφssbauer Spectrometer identifies types of iron-bearing minerals. The Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer identifies the elements in rocks and soils.
The rover's arm is about the same size as a human arm, with comparable shoulder, elbow and wrist joints. It is "one of the most dextrous and capable robotic devices ever flown in space," said JPL's Dr. Eric Baumgartner, lead engineer for the robotic arm, which also goes by the name "instrument deployment device."
"Best of all," Baumgartner said, "this robotic arm sits on a rover, and a rover is meant to rove. Spirit will take this arm and the tremendous science package along with it, and reach out to investigate the surface."
The wheels Spirit travels on provide other ways to examine Mars' soil. Details visible in images of the wheel tracks from the rover's first drive onto the soil give information about the soil's physical properties.
"Rover tracks are great," said Dr. Rob Sullivan of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., a member of the science team for Spirit and Opportunity. "For one thing, they mean we're on the surface of Mars! We look at them for engineering reasons and for science reasons." The first tracks show that the wheels did not sink too deep for driving and that the soil has very small particles that provide a finely detailed imprint of the wheels, he said.
Opportunity, equipped identically to Spirit, will arrive at Mars Jan. 25 (Universal Time and EST; 9:05 p.m. Jan. 24, PST). The amount of dust in the atmosphere over Opportunity's planned landing site has been declining in recent days, said JPL's Dr. Joy Crisp, project scientist for the Mars Exploration Rover Project.
Today, Spirit completes its 13th martian day, or "sol", at its landing site in Gusev Crater. Each sol lasts 39 minutes and 35 seconds longer than an Earth day. The rover project's goal is for Spirit and Opportunity to explore the areas around their landing sites for clues in the rocks and the soil about whether the past environments there were ever watery and possibly suitable for sustaining life.
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. Pictures 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-
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On a sunny day (16 Jan 2004 16:28:07 -0800) it happened snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net

You call that a microscope? So can my webcam.

sigh.
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

why the sigh? You have selected a single quote and seem to disparage the whole article because of it.
Quote from the same press release "Before driving to a selected rock early next week, Spirit will rotate the turret of tools to use two spectrometer instruments this weekend on the same patch of soil examined by the microsope, said Jessica Collisson, mission flight director. The Mφssbauer Spectrometer identifies types of iron-bearing minerals. The Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer identifies the elements in rocks and soils."
Why no recognition that most of the press release contains real information?
Life must be a real disappointment to you.
As used to be said - if you've not got anything to say, then don't say it!
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On a sunny day (Sun, 18 Jan 2004 01:18:11 -0000) it happened "OG"

Then shut up, as you fail to get the gist of it. Although Baalke posts real data, much of it comes in the form of (example): 'black hole music' (of non audible < .000000000001Hz) 'The sensitivity of the deep space network is so it can detect a flashlight at Jupiter distance' (or whatever), 'Best of all ... a rover is ment to rove...' 'A MICROSCOPE that can resolve *features* as small as a human hair... it's length hehe? Like I said my web cam does that:
http://www.home.zonnet.nl/panteltje/download/hair2.gif
Hair taped to a watch, web cam and soft used: http://www.home.zonnet.nl/panteltje/mcam / I have a 1200 x microscope, FYI, try looking through that at 1200x to get the feel what a microscope is (and I can connect this web cam to it). sci.astro, OK, for my horoscope and your deeper views, fine, but why deny a slightly higher step, Andrew Yee is the one who usually posts high quality stuff. Maybe Baalke's target is the general American, who just learned to read (is not that at age 40 there ;-)? Well, not that I know much more about astro... But from his postings would that improve? It is all animation, these days in science, man a few lines of to the point text could replace 10000 of noise. Perhaps the target group is seen wrong, INTERESTED kids over 4 years of age have quite a bit of understanding. Life, learn from me, what it really is about, instead of trying to play pro NASA it does not win you anything (you are betting on a variable). Then there is all the parroting that now started (with Bush space dream): NASA head ... said: 'cut cut cut no no no' and we need nuclear power because if the dust accumulating on the solar panels after 80 days...' There are very GOOD arguments for nuclear power, why make a complete idiot out of NASA by mentioning bogus ones? It is either science, OR you do career design talking crap for you politics friends. Or fear, for many, for their position in Bush mans world. I have seen, and see here, science is the victim, and stupidity is the unjust ruler, and the party is republicans. This is the only problem I have with a democracy, it is destined to fail, because if you design a spacecraft by majority vote of those who know sh*t about it, it won't work. Same way you cannot run a country. But worse is if you only design when there is a profit, then no since, no vision, and nothing ever happens. Science / research has its own momentum and speed, the more FREEDOM the more will come. US is on the way out. Remember USSR was first in space? You know why? US wants only weapons, only wants to rule. A stupid corrupt, injust ruler that then will force its own ideas. Your religions have turned to businesses, you lost the touch with reality and the next generation. Soon an ice age will come, and you will have to go as climate fugitives to South Europe, or Africa, hows the temp in New York these days? Goodbye America Join us again next time on *My View* brought to you by "PANTACOLA INC LTD* Now go and play with your 1 d*ck 2 w*bc*m 3 c*r 4 fl*te 5 t*lesc*pe 6 c*mp*ter 7 m*m* 8 d*nkyt*y ENTER A NUMBER
Polly Pantelene
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
<vituperative rant snipped>
If we really wanted to rule the world, many places might already be radioactive glass parking lots.
Plonk.
Cheers!
Chip Shults
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote: Well,
While I agree with the "rule the world" nonsense being "plonked", Jan did have one fairly astute comment...... Thirty years after the political stunt of landing men on the moon THIS is the best that the richest country in the world can do?! We get toy robots wandering around on Mars? What happened to "real" space stations? Or colony outposts on the Moon where REAL interplanetary projects can get a jump start? Thirty five years after Neil Armstrong's immortalized quote we're STILL flying vehicles that cost hundreds of millions a launch and throw away half the mass JUST to get into NEO? I'm so disappointed with our track record I want to spit every time I hear that misbegotten political entity's name mentioned. NASA, <hack ptui!>
Let the robber barons loose and see how long it takes to spread through the solar system and beyond. Not that I'm hip to robber barons, but even I recognize that without commercialization Columbus would never have bothered with the "new world."
Sigh, IMO of course, DLC
:
: <vituperative rant snipped>
: If we really wanted to rule the world, many places might already be : radioactive glass parking lots.
: Plonk.
: Cheers!
: Chip Shults
--
============================================================================
* Dennis Clark snipped-for-privacy@frii.com www.techtoystoday.com *
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
What happened is simple- we signed the UN Space treaty and are not allowed as a nation to develop space resources, and the general public is pretty much shut out of space by regulations. There are trillions of dollars to be pumped into the economy by developing even a small fraction of the potential, but people have been convinced that it is too expensive or that there is no profit to be made. It is unbelievable that in over 30 years, no real advances have been made. Solar power satellites alone would replace nearly all fossil fuel and apparently, nobody cares to do that.
Cheers!
Chip Shults
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:
IMO, both NASA and that treaty need to be plonked. We are an expanding race and unless we all want to adopt the Chinese population control ideas we need someplace to _go_. Another issue that international economic parity enthusiasts seem to conveniently ignore, if EVERYONE on the planet aspires to the living standards of the "Western World", and I see no reason why they shouldn't, where will all those resources come from that will be needed to provide it? Will we simply strip the planet to the core? Then what? Space isn't a silly fantasy, it is an economic necessity for continued life on this orb. Let's go a step further, what will we do with all the "second sons"? By this I mean, how to we deal with the youth looking for meaning? In the past we "got rid of them" through exploration of new lands and peoples. This satisfied the collective case of "foot itch and horizon fever" and spurred new ideas and activities that benefitted us all. Where do they go now? The planet will become one big city in the next 100 years, then what? We need to get "out there" for economic, cultural, societal and survival reasons. It ain't SF folks, it is swiftly becoming a racial need. It is time to stop forbidding, and start regulating space activities. It is time to get space exploration OUT of the hands of all these old women in hats and into the hands of the risk takers.
IMO of course, DLC
: What happened is simple- we signed the UN Space treaty and are not : allowed as a nation to develop space resources, and the general public is : pretty much shut out of space by regulations. There are trillions of : dollars to be pumped into the economy by developing even a small fraction of : the potential, but people have been convinced that it is too expensive or : that there is no profit to be made. : It is unbelievable that in over 30 years, no real advances have been : made. Solar power satellites alone would replace nearly all fossil fuel and : apparently, nobody cares to do that.
: Cheers!
: Chip Shults
--
============================================================================
* Dennis Clark snipped-for-privacy@frii.com www.techtoystoday.com *
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Dennis, I agree wholeheartedly. Now, I have been looking at those images. Pretty neat. Check this one out:
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/all/2/p/016/2P127783569EFF0327P2367R1 M1.JPG
Note the matter of how well the soil takes the prints. This indicates fine sediment particles, but also note that it fractures and breaks up pretty easily, not exactly like talcum or cocoa, but more like something with a mixture of other particles. Seems to be that the material takes prints very nicely but does not stick together that well overall, like a mixture of extremely fine dust and some fine sand in the mix as well. It is also pretty compressible from the look of it. Also note that the larger flat granules in the upper right of the image seem embedded in the finer silt- I have seen similar structures where pebbles had the soil under them eroded away by wind. This stuff doesn't seem to see much action. But also, very interesting (at least to me is the extremely abraded, worn smooth surfaces of the rocks. This indicates that those dust storms indeed do scour the daylights out of things, and that this is something we may want to pay close attention to for future missions, manned and otherwise. I also agree with the general sentiment about static electric effects being substantial there. Note that in the nearly vacuum conditions (typically 8 millibars or so) and with those extremely tiny silt particles, static attraction is probably a major controlling factor in how the dust and wind interact. Now, let's have a look at this one:
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/all/2/p/016/2P127783713EFF0327P2370L7 M1.JPG
This shot is a gem- it says a lot in one image. Note many of the rocks have a definite, "faceted" look to them. It might be that these particular rocks are plutonic intrusions that have crystallized slowly in a manner similar to basalt columns, but then I have to dismiss this idea because they have that "caramel" look like they have fractured along amorphous planes. This is pretty good material to test the brain with- you can see a texture almost like melonstone, sandblasted smooth and revealing the fracture planes. I think of something like obsidian but not as hard. It would be interesting to dig down the side of one of those larger rocks to see how far down the weathered surfaces extend. We might also learn something about the age of the dust- how long it has been there, for instance. It also looks from the surface of the soil here and also in this picture:
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/all/2/p/016/2P127792657EFF0327P2371R2 M1.JPG
...that the coarser grains are moved about separately from the finer dust grains. Apparently a segregating mechanism is operating, and probably happens once again during the onset of dust storms. I saw a fascinating demonstration of how dust storms start in near vacuum conditions, that explained that larger particles can move about pretty well in the high winds without the dust being picked up. But- once the larger particles are in motion, they can strike and break free small quantities of the dust, thus setting a cascade of effects in motion that starts a real dust storm. That seems to be important in the layering look that the larger particles have. Note that the larger sand seems to be blown in drifts along the rock "shadows" but that the silty looking stuff stays behind. Finally, look at any of the microscopic images from sol 17- this is a good one:
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/all/2/m/017/2M127876372EFF0327P2931M2 M1.JPG
Here it appears that the silt has been laid down like mud, then some bubbles might have emerged from the wet layer as it dried. Note the distinct holes in the material! Looks like those clams on the beach have been at it. Seriously though, this would be a fascinating experiment- a slurry of clay and a partial vacuum, wait for it to dry, and see if it duplicates the look of this microscope view. Well, just my 2 cents' worth.
Cheers!
Chip Shults
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

the
information?
it!
That's not my fault.

(example):
flashlight at

At the top of Ron's posting is an indication that it's a press release. We are not the intended audience for these - but they are written for publication in the general media.
Ron re-posts these to us and we can choose to read them or not. Mostly I don't.
However, in this case you decided to clip heavily and then add "sigh" as though that's some sort of valuable comment on the totality of the article. I happen to think that you are not being just in your criticism in this case.
Press releases have to be written in a media friendly style otherwise nobody will bother to read them. I think that on the whole, the quality of press releases is reasonable for a general medium, with some real hard information included.
--
Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com ).
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
OG wrote:

<snip>
If more science writing were done with the skill of Ron Baalke's we'd have fewer legal fights over evolution in the schools, more money from governments whose officials actually understood what science money went for, and in general a more scientifically literate populace.
Scientists shouldn't try to baffle the public with bs, or wow them with words longer than your arm. Part of the job of science is translating the behavior of the world into mathematics, those mathematics into words, and those words into comprehensive meaning. Anything less, and science has failed, IMO. If you do, people take their money elsewhere to things they understand. Jo
--
Geo Communications Services -- www.geocommunications.net
Jo Schaper's Missouri World -- http://www.missouriworld.net
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
After looking at the raw images from the microscope in the last batch posted on the rover website, I see what might just be visual artifacts, but appear to be elongated structures. Some are hairlike, others are granular, but there seems to be quite a few of them. Have a look at this particular one (picked at random) and see what I mean.
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/all/2/m/015/2M127691325EFF0309P2930M2 M1.JPG
Now, about 20% from the left, near the top, there is a long, pale, nearly vertical feature. from what they say about the image size and resolution, it is likely about 0.1 mm in thickness. Similar ones appear hear and there, mostly near the top of this particular image. I think that it is possible that they are focal artifacts, caused by the proximity of similarly lit or sized granules or clumps, and that since the focus field is not flat, but much clearer in the image center, it might well be the case. And statistically, there are going to be such things in many images that contain many small, essentially random particles. However, it is something worth looking into. Maybe I should get some material that clumps in the same manner (cocoa, as they noted?) and try getting some images through my microscope here. Might be informative. Comments, anyone? Care to try an experiment? Oh, one question for Ron Baalke- is this material undisturbed on the crater floor, or has it been scooped into a container for examination? That, too, might have quite an influence, such as causing "cracks" in the clumps, false alignments that are not natural, etc.
Cheers!
Chip Shults
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Dear Sir Charles W. Shults III:

but
granular,
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/all/2/m/015/2M127691325EFF0309P2930M2
the
the
well
many
Ron
are
I'm thinking this is unscooped. I did an "emboss" transform, and there are a number of "lines" formed about 5° clockwise from 12:00, across the entire image (al tiller weak in the lower left). As if wind had last blown across that way.
David A. Smith
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Put your webcam on the surface of Mars and I'll be impressed.
Tim
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

You're nuts. NASA-TV is wonderful for that exact reason.
I absolutely love stumbling on e.g. live and raw video feeds in the wee hours of the morning from the Shuttle... No audio (except for periodic communications with the astronauts), no glitzy schlock, nothing to get in the way of some of the most incredible and breathtaking views you'll ever see of our planet.
As for the one-sided interviews, etc, in these cases it's either seeing that or dead air. Personally I'd much rather see the former than the latter.
Rick
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I love all that stuff too. Sometimes those little teeny windows do get in the way of the views. It's really cool to try to figure out where they are by looking at those breathtaking views. If only you knew the shuttle's attitude and which direction the camera was pointed, you could do that... sometimes.

It's great fun inferring what they asked. I have more than those two choices, though, so I don't spend much time at it.
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

So, where do I go for more information than the press releases?
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

You could always apply for a job at NASA, or JPL.
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I asked the same question at sci.space.science, and got the following; ----- From: Elysium Fossa ( snipped-for-privacy@netscape.net) Subject: Re: Where to find more in-depth Mars Rover news?
Try www.spaceflightnow.com they have a text based mission status centre: http://www.spaceflightnow.com/mars/mera/status.html
Also C-SPAN http://www.c-span.org/ sometimes archive the news conferences - although they done seem to be doing it lately. I dont think NASA has an archive of them though. -----
The www.spaceflightnow.com source is exactly what I was looking for. However, you do need to pay to view their videos.
The C-span site also requires pay for the video.
Joe Dunfee
Add pictures here
βœ–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.