View Full Version : MER press conference - March 18, 2004

2004-Mar-18, 06:03 PM
Will Opportunity ever get out of its crater? Will Spirit go into its crater? Will Jennifer Trosper agree to my proposal of marriage? Stay tuned!

2004-Mar-18, 06:06 PM
First scientist (missed the name): Opportunity to leave crater in a few sols.

Spirit has "scuffed" the dune Serpent. "Both rovers have the right scuff." Long silence. "Just trying to make sure they don't ask me to do any more press conferences."

Spirit to continue around rim of Bonneville to the east, then exit to the south - nice gradual slope down.

2004-Mar-18, 06:14 PM
Scientist Albert (Howard?): Showing hills in various filters. Sufficient processing shows the rim of Gusev crater, 50 km off. Very hazy in the raw images. Can see the valley feeding into Gusev. Sky is clearing and less dusty, are able to see more.

Scientist John: Looking at approximate true-color panorama of Bonneville. Interested in light and dark drift materials in bottom of crater. Going left-to-right seeing older and older materials: sediments in right have a smaller crater in them, suggesting that it's quite old.

Top of drift with a lot of dust, crust on top. Interior of drift much darker. Will compare with similar-looking stuff at Laguna Hollow.

"Heading for the hills" in next 10-12 sols. Beforehand, get to a high spot and take a very detailed panorama to identify possible targets.

2004-Mar-18, 06:31 PM
Grad student Bethany Ehlmann: Opportunity scuffed outcrop, to see how hard, to see how well rover can scratch rocks.

Bethany is a nice name, don't you think?

Parked wheel on rock, spun it slowly. Ended up with a very bright patch. Will be analyzing patch to see what's there.

No wedding ring on her. ;)

Overhead, fish-eye view of crater. Take traverse path in crater over next 4-5 sols. See if blueberries are everywhere or just in northwest side. Compare soil in crater to what's outside. Looks like plan is sol 52 (now), new sites at sols 53,54,55, 56, then leave crater.

Analysis targets named "Vanilla" and "CookiesNCream." Trust a woman to name targets after ice cream flavors. ;) Guys would probably use cuts of steak. Or maybe junk food.

Another scientist, missed name: Talking about results from looking at outcrop. False-color image of Shoemaker's Patio. Blueberries are blue in this one, are really more gray. Distributed throughout rock, fairly uniform in size. Micro-imager: very fine layers about 1mm thick, blueberry in middle. Layers not distorted around blueberry, in fact seen on blueberry. This supports concretion theory.

Another micro-image from the "berry bowl" with three berries stuck together, also supports concretion theory.

Okay, they're concretions, so what are they made of? Tough to answer - too small to single out individually. But Berry Bowl has a collection of them. Can compare bowl with berries.

Scientist Daniel to talk about results of this: Mossbauer spectra of berries show strong fingerprints of hematite.

Back to previous scientist: All various assets of Opportunity have come together: pancam, Mossbauer, mini-TES, etc.

Once we've concluded that berries are hematitic concretions, we need a source for the iron and a way of transporting the iron through the sediments. EDIT: Should have said that this is further indication of a lot of water sometime in the past.

Whole surface above outcrop is littered with berries. Suggests that outcrop was higher and was eroded away, leaving the harder berries. Expect to find that plains are littered with berries. "Eager to get out and go roving."

Question time....

2004-Mar-18, 06:50 PM
ToSeek, thanks for doing these press conference synopses. I rarely get to see them myself.

Yes, I do think Bethany is a nice name. :D

2004-Mar-18, 07:03 PM
What kind of hematite is it? Large-grained crystals, also consistent with concretions. (Questioner is suggesting that pancam and Mossbauer spectra are contradictory; Dr. Knoll believes this is not an issue.)

Extended mission after sol 91, have to cut staff (boo!!), rovers less active. Try to get ops people back on Earth time. Will be going into deep sleep mode overnight after end of month: have to survive without heating. May cause some instruments to fail. Will be uploading new FSW.

Next-to-last scientist is Andy Knoll. Gets to sit next to Beth. :evil: Asked more about sources of hematite. Outcrop contains 2-3% hematite. Once eroded, you have a little pile of blueberries on the floor of the crater. Think Meridiani may be covered with little blueberries - larger outcrop once existed and was eroded over time.

Not planning right now to go inside Bonneville, nothing in there compelling enough to take the risk. (Not really a big risk but not much science value seen.) Not seeing outcrops in the crater wall, not getting through to bedrock. Southeast hills much more promising.

Stuff inside crater looks much like stuff at Laguna Hollow.

Heading out earlier than thought they would be this time last week. Looks like sediment skirt heading out of crater, want to take a look at that.

Back to Opportunity: hoping that new crater may have tens of meters of bedrock exposed, as contrasted with .3 for current crater.

What do we know about Columbia Hills so far? What do we expect to learn? (This is where Spirit will be heading.) Hope to examine bedrock up close and in place. Current knowledge is all from orbit. Will head for hills in next 7-10 days. Again, will take maximum-resolution panorama before heading out.

Update flight software to be not so easily spooked by potential hazards. Hope to get Spirit to 50 meters/day or more. Opportunity should be able to do 50-100 meters/day easily and possibly more. Could just tell it to go blind indefinitely. "It depends on how brave we feel."

How to do all that driving on minimal power? Mostly an issue of how much time the rovers can stay up. Driving doesn't take that long - can go a nice long distance in an hour or two. Also, deep sleep overnight will save power for use the next day.

That concludes our briefing for today.

P.S. I googled Ms. Ehlmann and was blown away: Rhodes Scholar, triple major, academic All-American, student government leader, Ultimate Frisbee national champion, NASA Academy Alumna. Wow! Amazing resume already for someone who can only be in her early 20s. Look for her to be a PI herself someday....

2004-Mar-18, 07:13 PM
Some of those journalists are pretty cocky, especially that old guy that asked the last final question. [-(

2004-Mar-18, 08:25 PM
Link to interview and photos of the woman that ToSeek has noticed (http://www.sit.edu/studyabroad/latinamerica/panama_student_interview.html)

2004-Mar-18, 08:54 PM
Analysis targets named "Vanilla" and "CookiesNCream." Trust a woman to name targets after ice cream flavors. ;)
Hey, blueberries and ice-cream, that sounds yummy! :D

Thanks for the reporting from the front ToSeek.

2004-Mar-18, 09:56 PM
I'm glad CSPAN has archived this one, they seem to have missed the one last week, so I never got to see it.

2004-Mar-18, 10:57 PM
Link to interview and photos of the woman that ToSeek has noticed (http://www.sit.edu/studyabroad/latinamerica/panama_student_interview.html)

She's better looking than that top photo would suggest. ;)

2004-Mar-19, 01:52 AM
Press release associated with this conference:

News Release: 2004-088 **March 18, 2004

Mineral in Mars 'Berries' Adds to Water Story

A major ingredient in small mineral spheres analyzed by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity furthers understanding of past water at Opportunity's landing site and points to a way of determining whether the vast plains surrounding the site also have a wet history.

The spherules, fancifully called blueberries although they are only the size of BBs and more gray than blue, lie embedded in outcrop rocks and scattered over some areas of soil inside the small crater where Opportunity has been working since it landed nearly two months ago.

Individual spherules are too small to analyze with the composition-reading tools on the rover. In the past week, those tools were used to examine a group of berries that had accumulated close together in a slight depression atop a rock called "Berry Bowl." The rover's Moessbauer spectrometer, which identifies iron-bearing minerals, found a big difference between the batch of spherules and a "berry-free" area of the underlying rock.

"This is the fingerprint of hematite, so we conclude that the major iron-bearing mineral in the berries is hematite," said Daniel Rodionov, a rover science team collaborator from the University of Mainz, Germany. On Earth, hematite with the crystalline grain size indicated in the spherules usually forms in a wet environment.

Scientists had previously deduced that the martian spherules are concretions that grew inside water-soaked deposits. Evidence such as interlocking spherules and random distribution within rocks weighs against alternate possibilities for their origin. Discovering hematite in the rocks strengthens this conclusion. It also adds information that the water in the rocks when the spherules were forming carried iron, said Dr. Andrew Knoll, a science team member from Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

"The question is whether this will be part of a still larger story," Knoll said at a press briefing today at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Spherules below the outcrop in the crater apparently weathered out of the outcrop, but Opportunity has also observed plentiful spherules and concentrations of hematite above the outcrop, perhaps weathered out of a higher layer of once-wet deposits. The surrounding plains bear exposed hematite identified from orbit in an area the size of Oklahoma -- the main reason this Meridiani Planum region of Mars was selected as Opportunity's landing site.

"Perhaps the whole floor of Meridiani Planum has a residual layer of blueberries," Knoll suggested. "If that's true, one might guess that a much larger volume of outcrop once existed and was stripped away by erosion through time."

Opportunity will spend a few more days in its small crater completing a survey of soil sites there, said Bethany Ehlmann, a science team collaborator from Washington University, St. Louis. One goal of the survey is to assess distribution of the spherules farther from the outcrop. After that, Opportunity will drive out of its crater and head for a much larger crater with a thicker outcrop about 750 meters (half a mile) away.

Halfway around Mars, NASA's other Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit, has been exploring the rim of the crater nicknamed "Bonneville," which it reached last week. A new color panorama shows "a spectacular view of drift materials on the floor" and other features, said Dr. John Grant, science team member from the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. Controllers used Spirit's wheels to scuff away the crusted surface of a wind drift on the rim for comparison with drift material inside the crater.

A faint feature at the horizon of the new panorama is the wall of Gusev Crater, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) away, said JPL's Dr. Albert Haldemann, deputy project scientist. The wall rises about 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) above Spirit's current location roughly in the middle of Gusev Crater. It had not been seen in earlier Spirit images because of dust, but the air has been clearing and visibility improving, Haldemann said.

Controllers have decided not to send Spirit into Bonneville crater. "We didn't see anything compelling enough to take the risk to go down in there," said JPL's Dr. Mark Adler, mission manager. Instead, after a few more days exploring the rim, Spirit will head toward hills to the east informally named "Columbia Hills," which might have exposures of layers from below or above the region's current surface.

The main task for both rovers is to explore the areas around their landing sites for evidence in rocks and soils about whether those areas ever had environments that were 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. Images and additional information about the project are available from JPL at <http://jpl.convio.net/site/R?i=v8i8v9b7YzJO-3BCLCXxIg..>http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov and from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., at <http://jpl.convio.net/site/R?i=oMUi5Lm7c2dO-3BCLCXxIg..>http://athena.cornell.edu .


2006-Dec-27, 08:43 PM
My girl's still hard at work:

Lewis And Clark Data Show Narrower, More Flood-prone River (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061113180047.htm)

"The contrast is amazing if you compare graphs of river height against time taken in the 19th century vs. the 20th century. You'd think you were looking at two different rivers. The river today is 'flashy' with rapid up and down jumps in river height." said Bethany Ehlmann, the study's lead author and a Washington University graduate and Rhodes Scholar, who completed the study for her master's degree at Oxford University. "But if you look at data collected by Lewis and Clark in 1804 it matches almost perfectly with the second oldest data we have from the 1860s."

2006-Dec-27, 09:47 PM
I guess I'm just slow, but I thought you lost your mind a little ToSeek. I could not figure out the connection between the Rovers, the Missouri River, and "my girl". I finally noticed the bolded name. I'm sure she is happy you are keeping track of her. ;)

2006-Dec-28, 03:16 AM
I guess I'm just slow, but I thought you lost your mind a little ToSeek. I could not figure out the connection between the Rovers, the Missouri River, and "my girl". I finally noticed the bolded name. I'm sure she is happy you are keeping track of her. ;)

When she rescinds the protection order, I'll let you know. ;)