PDA

View Full Version : NASA press conference, March 23, 2004



ToSeek
2004-Mar-23, 07:01 PM
I'll post updates and key information here for those who can't tune in.

ToSeek
2004-Mar-23, 07:03 PM
Title of the presentation is being shown as "Opportunity Hits the Beach."

nebularain
2004-Mar-23, 07:06 PM
Got Sophie - the girl that named the Rovers - there.

She's cute!

Demigrog
2004-Mar-23, 07:08 PM
NASA's PR style hasn't changed in 40 years... bring out the cute kids and inspirational names. :)

I'll put $5 on present water. Any takers?

nebularain
2004-Mar-23, 07:08 PM
Think he can drag out the inrtoduction any longe-e-e-e-e-e-r ?

snabald
2004-Mar-23, 07:09 PM
So, so far we know:

1: Opportunity hits the beach

2: Sophie is cute.

Unbunker
2004-Mar-23, 07:09 PM
watching streaming video... no sound!!! ARGH!

hickboy
2004-Mar-23, 07:11 PM
watching streaming video... no sound!!! ARGH!

At least you might get to see pictures... :(

ToSeek
2004-Mar-23, 07:12 PM
O'Keefe: Speechifying; introducing little girl who named rovers.

Nine billion hits to NASA website since Spirit landed. 18,000 photos, 4 Gbits of data.

Yeah, yeah, they're amazing devices.

Shut up and tell us what the discovery is!! :evil:

Getting ready to introduce the team. Turned over to Associate Administrator Ed Weiler. Couldn't answer questions about water with previous press conference, but started coming to conclusions about a week later. Didn't want to do press conference before peer review. Peer review has been done, interpretations are valid.

Rocks were formed by water in a salty sea.

Snowdog
2004-Mar-23, 07:13 PM
By the title of the presentation, I'd speculate they'll anounce that the landing area was covered with water at one point.

Edit: my speculation doesn't seem so insightful 1 minute later. :lol:

TrAI
2004-Mar-23, 07:14 PM
Hmmm? Perhaps that means that if one needs a lucky name for a mission, one should ask the cute child... :wink:

Ahh.. Formed in liquid water! =D>

Demigrog
2004-Mar-23, 07:14 PM
Space.com already has the whole story up. Think they got info in advance? ;)

nebularain
2004-Mar-23, 07:18 PM
Well, what-a-you-know?

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/opportunity_sea_040323.html


Scientists don't yet know how deep the ocean was, exactly when it existed or for how long.

The finding builds on the March 2 announcement that Meridiani Planum, where Opportunity landed, had long ago been soaked with water. Geologists could not tell from those initial results whether the water was above the surface or only underground.

"We think Opportunity is now parked on what was once the shoreline of a salty sea on Mars," Cornell University's Steve Squyres, principal science investigator for the Mars rover mission, said in a statement provided to SPACE.com prior to a press conference today.

The rocks would be excellent preservers of biological signs, if life ever existed on Mars, Squyres said. That makes Meridiani Planum a prime target for future missions that would search for evidence of past biology.

ToSeek
2004-Mar-23, 07:20 PM
I could have a heart attack and die from the surprise.... ;)

Steve Squyres, MER lead scientist: Strong evidence that rocks themselves are sediments, formed on shoreline of a salty sea on Mars.

Evidence:

- Found bromine but with great variation in concentrations, just what you find on Earth in rocks formed by evaporative sea water.
- Cross-bedding. Indicative of a fluid, could be air or water. Used microscopic imager to take closeups, mosaiced images together (152 images on "Last Chance").

Don't know how long the water was there, how common this is on Mars. But have tools to find out. Opportunity will go to Endurance Crater, expect to see many meters depth of bedrock there was only a little of in Eagle Crater.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will be able to image these formations.

Important because:
1. Habitable environment on Mars.
2. Potential for preservation of evidence - drying sediments trap whatever was in water. Meridiani Planum would therefore be a great place to go for a sample return mission.

ToSeek
2004-Mar-23, 07:27 PM
Geologist talking us through evidence of cross-bedding: layers but not parallel, "shallow smiles." Showed some video explaining why this is significant, not easy to explain in text but has to do with how shallow currents pass over sand.

snabald
2004-Mar-23, 07:29 PM
They are being so incredibly conservative with these discoveries. I mean they are just confirming what has been the prevailing theory for years now. While it is exciting to hear it confirmed it seems they are making too huge a hoopla over it.

They way they were hyping this conference I thought for sure they had found water still existing in one form or another on the surface.

Oh well, at least now we have more reasons to send missions looking for life and or fossils

skrap1r0n
2004-Mar-23, 07:31 PM
watching it now, wow this is amazing

ToSeek
2004-Mar-23, 07:32 PM
Dave Rubin, independent reviewer: "When I saw these images, I was astonished." Showing Colorado River ripples very similar to Opportunity images. Showing a sandy Chinese landscape with water under surface that appears very similar to what created the rocks at Opportunity.

Best alternate hypothesis is wind creating small forms, but even that requires water below the surface.

slbuczkowski
2004-Mar-23, 07:32 PM
streaming video suddenly has SOUND!

ToSeek
2004-Mar-23, 07:33 PM
Just got the NASA press release via email:


NEWS RELEASE: 2004-090 March 23, 2004

Standing Body of Water Left Its Mark in Mars Rocks

NASA's Opportunity rover has demonstrated some rocks on Mars probably formed as deposits at the bottom of a body of gently flowing saltwater.

"We think Opportunity is parked on what was once the shoreline of a salty sea on Mars," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the science payload on Opportunity and its twin Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit.

Clues gathered so far do not tell how long or how long ago liquid water covered the area. To gather more evidence, the rover's controllers plan to send Opportunity out across a plain toward a thicker exposure of rocks in the wall of a crater.

NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Science Dr. Ed Weiler said, "This dramatic confirmation of standing water in Mars' history builds on a progression of discoveries about that most Earthlike of alien planets. This result gives us impetus to expand our ambitious program of exploring Mars to learn whether microbes have ever lived there and, ultimately, whether we can."

"Bedding patterns in some finely layered rocks indicate the sand-sized grains of sediment that eventually bonded together were shaped into ripples by water at least five centimeters (two inches) deep, possibly much deeper, and flowing at a speed of 10 to 50 centimeters (four to 20 inches) per second," said Dr. John Grotzinger, rover science-team member from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.

In telltale patterns, called crossbedding and festooning, some layers within a rock lie at angles to the main layers. Festooned layers have smile-shaped curves produced by shifting of the loose sediments' rippled shapes under a current of water.

"Ripples that formed in wind look different than ripples formed in water," Grotzinger said. "Some patterns seen in the outcrop that Opportunity has been examining might have resulted from wind, but others are reliable evidence of water flow."

According to Grotzinger, the environment at the time the rocks were forming could have been a salt flat, or playa, sometimes covered by shallow water and sometimes dry. Such environments on Earth, either at the edge of oceans or in desert basins, can have currents of water that produce the type of ripples seen in the Mars rocks.

A second line of evidence, findings of chlorine and bromine in the rocks, also suggests this type of environment. Rover scientists presented some of that news three weeks ago as evidence the rocks had at least soaked in mineral-rich water, possibly underground water, after they formed. Increased assurance of the bromine findings strengthens the case that rock-forming particles precipitated from surface water as salt concentrations climbed past saturation while water was evaporating.

Dr. James Garvin, lead scientist for Mars and lunar exploration at NASA Headquarters, Washington, said, "Many features on the surface of Mars that orbiting spacecraft have revealed to us in the past three decades look like signs of liquid water, but we have never before had this definitive class of evidence from the martian rocks themselves. We planned the Mars Exploration Rover Project to look for evidence like this, and it is succeeding better than we had any right to hope. Someday we must collect these rocks and bring them back to terrestrial laboratories to read their records for clues to the biological potential of Mars."

Squyres said, "The particular type of rock Opportunity is finding, with evaporite sediments from standing water, offers excellent capability for preserving evidence of any biochemical or biological material that may have been in the water."

Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., expect Opportunity and Spirit to operate several months longer than their initial three-month prime missions on Mars. To analyze hints of crossbedding, mission controllers programmed Opportunity to move its robotic arm more than 200 times in one day, taking 152 microscope pictures of layering in a rock called "Last Chance."

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. Images and additional information about the project are available on the Internet at http://www.nasa.gov, http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov and http://athena.cornell.edu .

-end-

ToSeek
2004-Mar-23, 07:39 PM
Jim Garvia, Lead Scientist for Mars and the Moon,
Office of Space Science, NASA Headquarters, talks about implications.

Can't believe we're getting results like this after only 50 days on surface.

Mars is a layered planet. Mars exploration designed to be responsive. First response: Opportunity, Spirit driving to good sites for further investigation.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter: mineral mapping device, scale to correlate with rover's view. Will provide targetting ability for next mission.

Mars Laboratory: astrobiology, geology, climatology.

Mars sample return: take back from a place like Meridiani.

Need to piece together a picture of water on Mars.

skrap1r0n
2004-Mar-23, 07:44 PM
ok dumb question, but what happened to the water that was there? Did it evaporate and then collect at the poles?

Also, how does a planet lose it's atmosphere, I mean an atmosphere that would allow liquid water. Isn't the atmosphere held in place by the planets gravity? I understand distance from the sun (or the sun shrinking) may have quite an effect on the atmosphere. but it just leads to more questions..

What happened in mars past to push it in an orbit less favorable for life?

StarTalker
2004-Mar-23, 07:45 PM
Showing a sandy Chinese landscape with water under surface that appears very similar to what created the rocks at Opportunity.

What's the name of this Chinese landscape ? I missed that part. :roll:

ToSeek
2004-Mar-23, 07:48 PM
Question time:

Would the rovers be able to find fossils?

Earth: could be microscopic fossils in this environment. Could preserve microbial lifeforms, too small to see with rover cameras.

Meridiani too flat for a sea?

Still piecing together the geographic puzzle. Don't know if it's one big sea or a lot of little pools yet. Much smoother places on Mars. Think that craters have been exhumed, uncommon phenomenon on Earth.

What kind of tests would you run back with a sample you got back to Earth?

Way too many to list. Nitrogen, crystals, look at them at nanoscale - see how rocks were formed. Just need grams of the stuff.

skrap1r0n
2004-Mar-23, 07:58 PM
ahh someone asked my question

ToSeek
2004-Mar-23, 08:01 PM
Meridiani is prime target right now for 2009 deluxe Mars rover.

Squyres very confident that this was once a shoreline - you've got evaporation, sooner or later the shoreline comes through.

Some hope that rovers will last through summer (i.e., to September).

Accumulated carbonates sign of age? Evidence that water was pretty acidic - would reduce carbonate formation. Best way to determine geologic age is to look at more layers.

Poor Spirit hasn't made discoveries. Do you think it will?

Very, very lucky with Opportunity: look at latest images, flat plain with one little crater with outcrop, and we land in it. Spirit may get chance with Columbia Hills.

If we dumped water on Mars now?

Would freeze very quickly, then would sublimate and end up at poles.

What do current findings tell us about climate when water was there?

Not a lot. Could have formed under a cover of ice, not an open sea. Need more investigation of more locations.

harlequin
2004-Mar-23, 08:10 PM
Space.com already has the whole story up. Think they got info in advance? ;)

It is a standard practice called an embargo.

Basically members of the press get the information in advance of the public release of information. This allows the press to write their stories and maybe even do their homework so that they are up to speed when the information is released. The condition is, of course, that the press is not allowed to release the information until the public release date. A news organization violating those terms will find that they will never get a story in advance again.

harlequin
2004-Mar-23, 08:11 PM
Delete double post.

ToSeek
2004-Mar-23, 08:11 PM
Where did the water come from and where did it go?

Can't tell at this point.

What will microscopic image on 2008 Phoenix lander find?

Phoenix has 3 micro-imagers: one like MER's, one that can look at individual grains (nanoscale), and one inbetween.

Looking for proposals for micro-imagers for Mars Surface Laboratory.

When answer on life on Mars? Next three weeks?

Probably not next three weeks (considerable laughter). Next astrobiology experiments will be on MSL in 2009.

rigel
2004-Mar-23, 08:30 PM
For the first time I have read an article by the major news organizations that didn't mention the cost.

aurora
2004-Mar-23, 08:51 PM
They are being so incredibly conservative with these discoveries. I mean they are just confirming what has been the prevailing theory for years now. While it is exciting to hear it confirmed it seems they are making too huge a hoopla over it.


I don't remember previous evidence for sedimentary rock that was formed in water on Mars? Hasn't all the previous rock been volcanic or igneous?

Maybe I missed something?

snabald
2004-Mar-23, 08:54 PM
They are being so incredibly conservative with these discoveries. I mean they are just confirming what has been the prevailing theory for years now. While it is exciting to hear it confirmed it seems they are making too huge a hoopla over it.


I don't remember previous evidence for sedimentary rock that was formed in water on Mars? Hasn't all the previous rock been volcanic or igneous?

Maybe I missed something?

I just meant the whole shoreline/lots of water on Mars part. :cry:

slbuczkowski
2004-Mar-23, 09:05 PM
Headline to coverage from CNN:
NASA Reports Another Sign of Life on Mars

being a little presumptive with the evidence......?

slbuczkowski
2004-Mar-23, 09:13 PM
Take that back, they've changed the headline already.

Swift
2004-Mar-23, 10:06 PM
ok dumb question, but what happened to the water that was there? Did it evaporate and then collect at the poles?

Also, how does a planet lose it's atmosphere, I mean an atmosphere that would allow liquid water. Isn't the atmosphere held in place by the planets gravity? I understand distance from the sun (or the sun shrinking) may have quite an effect on the atmosphere. but it just leads to more questions..

What happened in mars past to push it in an orbit less favorable for life?
This is going to be off the top off my head (and it's an amateur's head)...
Mar's problem is not that its orbit changed but that its too small. Yes the gravity keeps the atmosphere, but Mars is a lot smaller than Earth and the gravity is less. So once mechanisms that added gases to Mar's atmosphere stopped (like volcanoes and comets hitting) the gas left that much sooner. The volcanoes probably stopper sooner than on Earth because Mar's is smaller too, less radioactive elements in core, less heat.

As to where the water went, some evaporated (more probably sublimated), some is tied up in the poles and some is ???. Might be water either below ground or tied up in the rocks. That's one thing the European orbiter is looking for.

skrap1r0n
2004-Mar-24, 12:40 AM
ok dumb question, but what happened to the water that was there? Did it evaporate and then collect at the poles?

Also, how does a planet lose it's atmosphere, I mean an atmosphere that would allow liquid water. Isn't the atmosphere held in place by the planets gravity? I understand distance from the sun (or the sun shrinking) may have quite an effect on the atmosphere. but it just leads to more questions..

What happened in mars past to push it in an orbit less favorable for life?
This is going to be off the top off my head (and it's an amateur's head)...
Mar's problem is not that its orbit changed but that its too small. Yes the gravity keeps the atmosphere, but Mars is a lot smaller than Earth and the gravity is less. So once mechanisms that added gases to Mar's atmosphere stopped (like volcanoes and comets hitting) the gas left that much sooner. The volcanoes probably stopper sooner than on Earth because Mar's is smaller too, less radioactive elements in core, less heat.

As to where the water went, some evaporated (more probably sublimated), some is tied up in the poles and some is ???. Might be water either below ground or tied up in the rocks. That's one thing the European orbiter is looking for.

Ok I can buy that. however, the conference today referenced standing water. Water that was there long enough to lay down sedimend and for that sediment to form rock. In my mind, we are talking several hundreds of thousands of years?

One of the scientist mentioned that this could have possibly happened under a glacier or an ice cap. Even if thats the case, the water (ice) had to go somewhere.

In my ignorance I would speculate one of the following:

1) theres a LOT of permafrost and/or water inside the planet itself

2) these formations were laid down by the polar caps and then the poles shifted so the water/ice sublimated out and settled in the new polar position.

Squink
2004-Mar-24, 01:11 AM
Here's an interesting article at NASA on how Mars' weak magnetic field allowed the solar wind to strip the planets' atmosphere of water: The Solar Wind at Mars (http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2001/ast31jan_1.htm)

JonClarke
2004-Mar-24, 02:32 AM
ToSeek wrote:

"Poor Spirit hasn't made discoveries."

Actually, the discovery that the surface of Gusev is of basalt is a big one with major implications. Theories that it was once a lake have taken a major beating, as much of the crater is floored by similar material. It also means that Ma'adim Vallis may not be a water channel at all, but one cut by lava. Ironically, while Oppotunity has made Mars seem more Earth-like, Spirit has made it seem more Moon-like. How to reconcile these opposite sets of conclusions is going to be fun.

Jon

ToSeek
2004-Mar-24, 03:06 AM
ToSeek wrote:

"Poor Spirit hasn't made discoveries."

Actually, the discovery that the surface of Gusev is of basalt is a big one with major implications. Theories that it was once a lake have taken a major beating, as much of the crater is floored by similar material. It also means that Ma'adim Vallis may not be a water channel at all, but one cut by lava. Ironically, while Oppotunity has made Mars seem more Earth-like, Spirit has made it seem more Moon-like. How to reconcile these opposite sets of conclusions is going to be fun.

Jon

Just to clarify in case there's any confusion: I was paraphrasing the question asked at the press conference, not expressing my own sentiments.

It does seem as if we have both faces of Mars here. It's been kind of an interesting ride: Mars seemed to be a good abode for life up until Mariner 4 took images of a very Moonlike surface in the early 60's. Then the tide went the other way until some of the recent discoveries, when Mars is looking more and more like a place life could have arisen. Opportunity and Spirit are two sides of the same coin.

JonClarke
2004-Mar-24, 03:17 AM
Indeed. Not to mention the evidence for clays, iron oxides, and abudnant liquid and solid water one one hand, and well preserved olivine on the other.

Jon

Irishman
2004-Mar-24, 05:03 PM
Check out Mars Express (http://www.esa.int/export/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/SEMKK75V9ED_0.html):

So where did the atmospheric gases and water go and why? Each of the seven instruments on board the Mars Express orbiter will contribute towards the answer.
The water could have been lost to space, trapped underground, or both. Four of the instruments on Mars Express (ASPERA, SPICAM, PFS and MaRS) will observe the atmosphere and reveal processes by which water vapour and other atmospheric gases could have escaped into space. Two instruments (HRSC, OMEGA) will examine the surface and in the process add to knowledge about where water may once have existed and where it could still lie underground. One (MARSIS) will actually look for underground water and ice.

ToSeek
2004-Mar-24, 05:03 PM
Beachcombing On the Shores of Barsoom (http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=940) - good follow-up article from spaceref.com.

PeteB
2004-Mar-25, 03:36 AM
It also means that Ma'adim Vallis may not be a water channel at all, but one cut by lava.


Jon -
I think Ross Irwin makes a good case for the hydrological origin of Ma'adim. If carving the channel occurred early and was a singular (or only a few flooding episodes), the eroded debris may be buried deeply under 4 billion years of volcanics, aeolian deposits, etc..
http://www.nasm.si.edu/ceps/research/irwin/lake_images.htm
http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2004/pdf/1852.pdf

JonClarke
2004-Mar-25, 04:49 AM
Hi Peter

Nice to see you in this part of the world as well. Ma'adim vallis is an extraordinary feature. I've been trying to visualise what it would be like to be in it - 8 to 15 km across, 2 km deep, 900 km long. The mind simply boggles.

Grin and Carbol back in 97 gave some very convincing arguments that Gusev was filled by a lake, arguments that seem now to be completely wrong. When you look at the THEMIS data and the morphology of wrinkle ridges across the floor of Gusev http://themis.la.asu.edu/zoom-20030725a.html it seem more plausible that the main surface material is basaltic flows, as confirmed by Spirit. This does not mean that Gusev could never have been a lake, maybe the sediments were buried beneath the lava or maybe they have been eroded away. That is why it would be nice if Spirit could reach the hills, to look for remnants of younger sediments, evidence for old shorelines etc.

So while conventional wisdom is that Ma'adim was cut by water before, after, or during basalt emplacement, I wonder if alternatives should not be considered. There are large rills on the moon, and terrestrial komatiitic lavas incised deep channels in the Archaean, although these features are all an order of magnitude smalller than Ma'adim. Especially since conventional wisdom has been so wrong here, or at least seems that way.

Jon

PeteB
2004-Mar-25, 01:19 PM
Jon -

I just don't see any volcanic source for a lava channel explanation. I went to Ross Irwin's talk at LPSC and he gave a number of details about the topography of Ma'adim - nick points, bars, etc. But I didn't take notes and have forgotten most of the specifics already. :-(

You're right about Cabrol's argument in the 90's. But in the last couple of years the group advocating Gusev began pitching the potential variety of materials as a selling point:
http://marsoweb.nas.nasa.gov/landingsites/mer2003/doc/arcadia_03/talks/Cabrol/cabrol.pdf

Note that p 6 shows part of the eastern hills. What is now called Husband Hill, the largest of the Columbia Hills, was already identified as a key location. Especailly the light toned layer(s) on the south side.

I asked Irwin about these hills and he thinks they may be a wrinkle ridge.

Btw, the way, if I didn't say already on a different board, I did see your poster. But never did see your coauthor.

ToSeek
2004-May-12, 02:41 PM
The science package website (http://athena.cornell.edu/mars_facts/water.html) has a good summary of the evidence Opportunity found for water.