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Sandtrapped Rover Makes a Big Discovery

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posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 03:42 PM
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So when we last left our pair of inquisitive Mars rovers -- Opportunity and Spirit -- Opportunity has been sailing along, possibly even whistling, merrily going about its scheduled tasks: (from NASA)


"It's been easy for Opportunity to find such minerals," explains Arvidson. "Opportunity landed in an ancient lake bed. Spirit has had to work much harder. Spirit landed in basaltic plains formed by lava flows chewed up by repeated meteoroid impacts. There's been little evidence of anything that was ever very wet."


And poor little interplanetary rover-that-could, Spirit, has gone through trial after trial. In 2006, one of the wheels got stuck, and it has been travelling backward ever since. In November of this year, it got stuck in a sandtrap, churning up the Mars surface, thrusting back and forth trying to free itself, helpless to do more than transmit photos of its shame back home. (yes, I realize I'm anthrpomorphizing). ha!

BUT! Then it made a discovery........

"The rover's spinning wheels have broken through a crust, and we've found something supremely interesting in the disturbed soil," says Ray Arvidson of the Washington University in St. Louis.

"Spirit had to get stuck to make its next discovery," says Arvidson.

As the rover tried to break free, its wheels began to churn up the soil, uncovering sulfates underneath.

"Sulfates are minerals just beneath the surface that shout to us that they were formed in steam vents, since steam has sulfur in it. Steam is associated with hydrothermal activity – evidence of water-charged explosive volcanism. Such areas could have once supported life."

"And most amazingly, the boundary between the sulfate-rich soil and the soil with just the generic concentration of sulfates runs right down the middle of the stranded rover. Spirit is lodged on the edge of a crater -- sitting astride the boundary!"


Link to graphic of Spirit's location and the crater boundary

Photo from Spirit, stuck, with disturbed surface

Will Spirit be able to break free from Mars' talcum-like sand?

Watch Spirit and Opportunity's Homepage for further developments.

Homepage? What, no Facebook?
No, you cheese twit, one has to have a FACE for Facebook.

Awwwwwwwwwwwww, tell me that isn't a Face.

...... and while you're there, check out all the cool onboard toys and instruments that the rovers carry:

Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer
Microscopic Imager
Mineature Thermal Image Spectrometer

......... and many more! Slide your cursor over the list on the right of The Rover Page to see where these items are located on the rover, as well as more information.

Now, to go work on a Spirit Cheer. You never know. It could be listening.




posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 04:21 PM
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Alright, this is getting kinda' silly.
I guess it is easy to forget how long those rovers have been up there.
What was their dsigned life-expectancy? Three months? They've been there for three YEARS. And now, JUST NOW, after having discovered significant quantities of water on the moon, does the rover happen upon the 1:1,000,000,000 shot that it is going to stradle alongside evidence of ancient, or even current, hydrothermal activity on the planet?
Now?
As in right in this moment?

Give me a break.



posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 04:39 PM
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Originally posted by JayinAR
Alright, this is getting kinda' silly.
I guess it is easy to forget how long those rovers have been up there.
What was their dsigned life-expectancy? Three months? They've been there for three YEARS. And now, JUST NOW, after having discovered significant quantities of water on the moon, does the rover happen upon the 1:1,000,000,000 shot that it is going to stradle alongside evidence of ancient, or even current, hydrothermal activity on the planet?
Now?
As in right in this moment?

Give me a break.

Actually, no.

NASA announced the discovery of water on the Moon back in 1994 when the Clementine Spacecraft detected it. The LCROSS mission was only to positively confirm its presence, and more importantly give clues to how much is there.

So the water on the moon discovery and the signs that point to possible ancient thermal vents on Mars is about 15 years apart.

[edit on 12/2/2009 by Soylent Green Is People]



posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 04:47 PM
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I love how Spirit has to travel backwards haha.

Can you imagine being an intelligent alien on Mars and seening these helpless little inky-dink rovers driving around getting stuck on small rocks? They drive back and forth repeatively trying to navigate out. They also recieve our input orders 6 mins after we send them, so they drive for awhile then stop and wait. When they stop, they pick up pebbles and soil with a mechanical lilttle arm and put them in its mid-section, then the oven turns on and they heat it up. So we can analyize the gases.

Cute little WALL-Es, you could probably step out of the way of the camera before it could take a picture.

Back to topic, its great that Spirit is still operational and even though he got stuck, he is still producing discoveries. If Spirit can kick off all the red dust coat just by peeling out, then the red dust that covers the planet must not be that deep?

I wonder what other minerals are right under our noses. We need to do a little drilling. The core samples would tell us so much about the red planet.

[edit on 2-12-2009 by tooo many pills]



posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 04:49 PM
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There are going to be some very depressed people at JPL when they finally flip the switch (whenever that happens). I don't think the sentimentalism is avoidable. It will be like putting an old golden retriever down.



posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 05:47 PM
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reply to post by JayinAR
 


Well, it's not really new that water is and has been present on Mars.. what makes this discovery interesting -- at least to me -- is that it gives some clues toward an ongoing water cycle on the planet. If that's true, it may not have been as long ago as previously hypothesized that Mars was a more vibrant life-supporting planet than it APPEARS to be now. Of course, only a small bit of Mars has been surveyed, and at that a smaller percentage sampled. Of that, only a few inches deep of the "soil".

From NASA, as a result of the recent Spirit data:

Here's what the scientists think: When a Martian pole faces the sun in Martian summer, it gets warmer at that pole and the water ice shifts to the equator. It even snows there! Warm dark soil under the snow causes the bottom layer of snow to melt. The water trickles into the sulfates, dissolving the water-soluble iron sulfates and forming a crust with the calcium sulfates remaining.


Opportunity is currently rolling around what is thought to be an old lakebed. Pretty slick. Like you, I'm impressed that both rovers are still functional. Generally, seems to me that the more complex a machine is, the more opportunity for breakdown, and this is a fairly complex machine, or at least it has pretty esoteric analysis instruments on it.



posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 05:53 PM
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reply to post by Soylent Green Is People
 


Thanks Soylent; you and Phage and others have an excellent command of these kind of developments, and I almost always learn something from the both of you, as well as others.

This type of thread isn't particularly popular in the grande scheme of ATS, but I do find that the quality of posts are more valuable than quantity, as evidenced here. Of course, I have to consider that my manner of presenting the thread has more to do with the lack of posts than the material itself.

I tend to doubt that NASA lets us see all the data/photos that they are privvy to, but I do think that there's a lot out there to discover and wonder about. I'm glad for what we get to look at.



posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 05:55 PM
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Originally posted by argentus
it got stuck in a sandtrap, churning up the Mars surface, thrusting back and forth trying to free itself, helpless to do more than transmit photos of its shame back home. (yes, I realize I'm anthrpomorphizing). ha!


i pray nightly that a liitle green man will be photographed lifting the little guy out of the hole he's dug himself, patting him on the head and walking off into the martian sunset.

it would be such a trip.



posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 06:02 PM
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reply to post by tooo many pills
 


Well, right now, it's not travelling at all, but I think that's what makes me anthropomorephize Spirit -- it was well named and just keeps on chuggin'. If it flipped over, it would keep on sampling (unless the solar panels were damaged or misoriented).

Like you, I get a kick out of imagining a sentient entity(s) on Mars watching our little rovers roll around, poking and picking up soil, making little whirring sounds.



Back to topic, its great that Spirit is still operational and even though he got stuck, he is still producing discoveries. If Spirit can kick off all the red dust coat just by peeling out, then the red dust that covers the planet must not be that deep?
Very good point. I was wondering that too. It would be fascinating if these subsurface minerals were found to be predominant over the planet.... what would that mean? Red dust from a time of profound volcanos? I don't know. I agree that we should do some cores. I'd hate it if we found an abundance of something valuable to Earth. It'd be just like us humans to plan a mining operation without having first determined that the planet was uninhabited. Sentient microbes? Bacteria? who knows?



posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 06:06 PM
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reply to post by Phage
 



There are going to be some very depressed people at JPL when they finally flip the switch (whenever that happens). I don't think the sentimentalism is avoidable. It will be like putting an old golden retriever down.
Perfectly said, you ol' softie.
That's exactly how it feels to me. Anything a person or group puts their efforts and talents into that actually works, especially things like this with unknown variables that can make it go bad.... it does tend one toward a sorta emotional attachment. I remember shooting a car once. Of course, that was anger, but I loved it at one time.



posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 06:09 PM
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reply to post by pieman
 



i pray nightly that a liitle green man will be photographed lifting the little guy out of the hole he's dug himself, patting him on the head and walking off into the martian sunset.

it would be such a trip.


Wouldn't that be great!! Even if we just saw a mandible, tenticle, chitonous claw, or perhaps millions of little creatures. It's good to have dreams.



posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 06:28 PM
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reply to post by Soylent Green Is People
 


Sorry, I don't follow you.
Are you telling me that they *discovered* water in '94 and rediscovered it, for real this time, just a few short weeks ago?

As I said, it is really odd the timing of these discoveries, or confirmations... However you want to term it.

I guess that is what happens when someone threatens to cut your funding. You start tipping your hand.



posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 07:08 PM
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reply to post by JayinAR
 


No, it was found and discovered and back in 94.
What they ascertained with the LCross mission was to see in what quantities water can be found on the moon.



posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 07:11 PM
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reply to post by RuneSpider
 

Clementine made some observations of suspected water in 1994. It wasn't really until this year that the confirmations started rolling in.



posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 07:18 PM
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I keep waiting for these rovers to return pictures of a pair of boots. When the Martians finally tire of hide and seek. I have to wonder at what good stuff we are not being shown.



posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 07:19 PM
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reply to post by Phage
 


My mistake then, thank you.



posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 11:46 PM
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reply to post by argentus
 


I agree, that volcanoes are the best bet for th red dust, especially if the red dust is a consistant thickness around the planet. Only if materials on Mars disperse the same as on Earth. Mars as some of the biggest volcaneos in the solar system. One is 15 miles high and a lot of others are 6 miles high. I dont know if they are still active.

I wonder what color Mars would be if the red sediment was removed?

I wonder if repeated volcanic eruptions covered Mars, cooled the atmosphere, and clogged what river like systems were flowing. I dunno I might do a little reading



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