Spirit Finds Water, Still Stuck

The Mars Rover Spirit got stuck, probably forever, last year, but the little guy has not given up doing science!!!!

The extraterrestrial vehicle discovered evidence “that water, perhaps as snow melt, trickled into the subsurface fairly recently and on a continuing basis.”

Oh, great, mud! That’s going to make it easy to get unstuck…

Here, look:

View image

Soil Disturbed by Spirit Before Fourth Martian Winter

This mosaic of images shows the soil in front of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit after a series of short backward drives during attempts to extricate the rover from a sand trap in January and early February 2010. It is presented in false color to make some differences between materials easier to see. Bright-toned soil was freshly exposed by the rover’s left-front wheel during the drives and can be seen with a “sand wave” shaping that resulted from the unseen wheel’s action.

Spirit’s panoramic camera (Pancam) took the component images during the period from the 2,163rd to 2,177th Martian days, or sols, of Spirit’s mission on Mars (Feb. 2 to Feb. 16, 2010). The turret at the end of the rover’s arm appears in two places because of movement during that period.

Insets in the upper left and lower right corners of the frame show magnified views of the nearby inscribed rectangles within the mosaic. The patch of ground within each rectangle is about 25 centimeters (10 inches) across. The top inset and upper portion of the mosaic include targets within soil layers exposed by the action of Spirit’s wheels in April 2009 and examined in detail with instruments on Spirit’s arm during the five subsequent months. Those investigations determined that, under a thin covering of windblown sand and dust, relatively insoluble minerals are concentrated near the surface and more-soluble ferric sulfates have higher concentrations below that layer. This pattern suggests water has moved downward through the soil, dissolving and carrying the ferric sulfates.

The brightness and color of the freshly disturbed soil seen in the center area of the mosaic indicates the this formerly hidden material is sulfate-rich. Before Spirit drove into this patch, the surface looked like the undisturbed ground highlighted in the lower-right inset. Flecks of red material in the surface layer resemble the appearance of the surface layer at other locations where Spirit’s wheels have exposed high-sulfate, bright soils.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University

Comments

  1. #1 Lyle
    October 28, 2010

    Given that the rovers were speced for 90 days, and they are at 5+ years now that shows that at least one part of the government (JPL) can supervise building things that last. (Of course they have been known for this if there probes get there they last a long time. Perhaps we need to ask what is the moxie this part of nasa has that seems to have been lost in the other parts let alone the rest of the government.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    October 28, 2010

    I do not assume that the government is incapable of specing and supervising building of products that last compared to the free market. I know people say that all the time, but I have no idea what the evidence is for that.

    I once owned a Chevy Chevette. Excellent evidence that the private sector does not automatically do it right.

  3. #3 itzac
    October 28, 2010

    You can have a group of highly competent people working well together to accomplish something amazing. You can have paralyzing bureaucracy standing in the way of any idea that isn’t yours. Either, or anything in between, can happen in organizations of any size, public or private. It’s all just people working together with more or less success.

  4. #4 IanW
    October 29, 2010

    Or you could have them significantly over-building their probes and using the best materials and best engineering techniques because they know they have to make these things rugged and reliable, and this is why they end up lasting so long. It’s not rocket science. Well, yeah, actually it is, and that’s why it’s far too expensive to apply liberally throughout government.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    October 29, 2010

    Military equipment tends to be over built. But then it gets shot at and stuff.