Mars’ Gusev Crater May Be Dry

first_imgPreliminary indications from the spectrometer on Spirit, the rover exploring Gusev Crater on Mars, may dash hopes for those looking for evidence of past water there.  According to the NASA-JPL press release, the signature of olivine has been found.  Olivine degrades in water, even at near-freezing temperatures, and it weathers easily.  It is not known if the olivine is present in the soil or in the rock underneath.  Its presence, however, casts doubt on whether the area was ever under water.  The “wet-Marsers” might hold onto hope if perhaps the olivine was blown in from other locations in dust storms, but it is possible the floor of the crater consists of finely ground volcanic dust that was never wet.    Further corroboration is currently on hold, unfortunately, pending resolution of a serious communication anomaly with Spirit.  This occurred the very day it was scheduled to grind a rock the team named Adirondack for more clues.  The incident occurred just two days before the rover’s twin, Opportunity is scheduled to begin its “six minutes of terror” descent to the opposite side of the planet.  Opportunity’s goal, Meridiani Planum, bears the spectral signature of hematite.  Because hematite forms most readily in the presence of water, this makes Meridiani another prime target in the search for past liquid water on Mars.    The European Space Agency is celebrating the arrival of Mars Express.  It just returned its first spectacular high-resolution color pictures from orbit, as partial compensation for the loss of Beagle 2.Best wishes to the team for the resolution of the problem with Spirit and a happy landing for Opportunity.  If worse comes to the worst for Spirit, at least it got two weeks of spectacular images, including this rear shot of the landing platform.  The landing caught the attention of the whole world.  Hits at the JPL Mars Exploration website surpassed all previous records, with traffic reaching 7 Gb/sec.    All humans who prefer data over speculation should support these heroic efforts to explore space.  An ounce of data is worth a pound of speculation.  Getting that ounce from the surface of Mars is very, very challenging.  It also makes for a great adventure story on this 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition.(Visited 6 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img

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