View Full Version : MER press conference, 2004 June 25

2004-Jun-24, 03:20 PM
Another press conference tomorrow (Friday) at 1 pm EDT, 10 am PDT. I should be able to cover it in my usual inimitable fashion. ;)

Pete Albrecht
2004-Jun-25, 02:18 AM
Another press conference tomorrow (Friday) at 1 pm EDT, 10 am PDT. I should be able to cover it in my usual inimitable fashion.


And then the skull, the stingray, the lamb statue, the outpost... (Outpost? An outpost of what?) And if there's time, the horsey, duckie, and '47 Tucker Torpedo. Which I discovered.

I dare ya. I double... no, TRIPLE dog dare ya.


2004-Jun-25, 02:53 PM
I'll be watching it via NASA TV using Real Player. I'm afraid I'm not in a position to make the inquiries you so enthusiastically suggest (and a good thing too....).

2004-Jun-25, 04:51 PM
Just to give this thread some balance I'll be watching using Windows Media Player.

2004-Jun-25, 05:01 PM
And away we go....

Some interesting information about Pot of Gold

Our panelists today:

Steve Squyres, PI
Doug Ming, scientist, JSC
Chris Voorhees, JPL engineer
Nicholas Tosca, SUNY scientist

2004-Jun-25, 05:02 PM
It's started early. Squyers (?)is on so it may be important

2004-Jun-25, 05:06 PM
Steve Squyres, Principal Investigator:

Felt to us as if the missions had started over again, whole new investigations.

Looking at Pot of Gold. "Remarkably strange-looking rock, we have not gotten this thing figured out yet."

It's a little rock, 10x12 cm, could hold it in the palm of your hand, remarkable in its shape. Two remarkable characteristics:

- Planar features
- Little nuggets on the ends of stalks. No idea what they are.

Nuggets look like Opportunity's blueberries, but are not spherical. Are definitely something else, not concretions.

Micro-imager of nuggets: two, not even close to round. "I don't know how these things formed, and they're driving me nuts!"

Pitted texture of exposed parts of rock. "Really different stuff."

"Crazy texture on this rock, trying to tell us something about how it was formed." No idea what yet.

Pictures not whole story, doing various analyses and not done yet. Using RAT would be a challenge due to non-smooth surface.

2004-Jun-25, 05:11 PM
Doug Ming, to talk about Mossbauer results.

Two Mossbauer spectra: short on upper right, longer on center. Mossbauer just looks at iron and its oxidation state, how it's oriented.

Showing comparative spectra between PoG and typical Gusev basalt. Definitely seeing hematite, "hematite sextet" spectral signs. Basalt does not show sextet. Basalt has iron tied up in olivine.

(Brief distraction.) Talking about how hematite forms in water environment, but can form in igneous environment, too.

Science team "doesn't have a clue" about formation of rock, just working hypotheses.

2004-Jun-25, 05:13 PM
He hasn't cut his hair so it can't be that important.

2004-Jun-25, 05:13 PM

Went to Gusev looking for water. Landed, looked around, saw lava. Saw Columbia Hills, almost unreachable but wanted to get there to find "something truly new and different. And we have."

Can tell difference between water, non-water origin if can measure other stuff with it: other elements, patterns in chemistry.

Going to stop here and take our time, going through chemistry and mineralogy, try to use RAT, wheels to take rock apart. "Exciting times ahead."

2004-Jun-25, 05:20 PM
Chris Voorhees on mobility issues:

Both vehicles in very good health, but approaching more difficult terrain at both sites while getting less and less power. Getting first signs of age. 3.3 km trek from landing site, 3x design life of drive train. Right front wheel using 2.5x regular power to turn, increasing over last kilometer. Lots of possible reasons, best bet is a lubrication issue. Over time, lubrication can be lost or can migrate. Can try to get lubrication back in by orienting vehicle to heat up right front wheel, turning on heaters, prodding actuators to work lubrication back into gears. May or may not be successful.

Contingency: send planners and drivers "back to driving school" to learn how to drive with five wheels. Will be different, have to get used to it.

Equally aggressive terrain on Opportunity: Opportunity at 23-degree slope, right in front of a "precipice" with a 35-40 degree slope. Would really like to go farther down slope. Running tests with test rover back on Earth to see if can get up 40-degree lip. Test was successful, results very positive.

As an engineer and rover designer, happy to see scientists using full capabilities of rovers.

2004-Jun-25, 05:29 PM
Nicholas Tosca on Opportunity findings:

Showing slide with movements along Karatepe down to Sol 141. Clear that rocks are stratigraphy, layers into past of the site. Can see color variations in layers. Have identified layers - five shown, named A, B, C, D, E (very original). Layers C,D,E a little finer, referred to as laminated.

Slide with microscopic imager mosaic of A, B, and line between. RATing each layer, using APXS, Mossbauer to do mineralogy. Large proportion of sulfate, same proportions of hematite as Eagle, similar quantities of blueberries.

Want to venture farther down into crater.


Two lessons from Endurance: "awful lot of salt down there". Expecting to get to basaltic sand but haven't yet. Lots more sulfate than expected, means lots more water than expected. Will be able to attach some numbers to how much water was there once done.

As we've gotten down to lower layers, while the chemistry is the same, not seeing the same ripples, fewer tabular holes created by crystals, same amount of bromine.

Speculation: materials deeper in crater may have been stirred/mixed by wind, now all looks the same geochemically. Hypothesis can be tested as we move down the stack. Wind will make larger-scale crossbedding. Thinking might have been wet and dry, wet and dry, with wind blowing things around inbetween.

Question time.

2004-Jun-25, 05:41 PM
Next steps for Spirit, PoG or lubrication?

Pot of Gold first, then lubrication. Need to do lubrication before next drive.

Science team trying to decide how much longer to stay in PoG area, have to do lubrication before leaving.

How much water? Ocean, lake, pond?

Once we get to the bottom, we can, and there is a bottom. If we can go deeper into crater, we can find bottom, then do calculations. Don't think we have compelling evidence for a deep body of water, findings so far compatible with very shallow body of water. More sulfates, more water episodes there have to be.

Any significant slippage on Opportunity?

Rover's behavior have matched what's expected from tests, 15-20%, reasonable given slopes we're on.

Lower limit on duration of water?

Will never be able to contrain duration very well, just quantity.

What hypotheses about origins of Pot of Gold, what are they?

Any hypotheses about how nuggets on stalks formed? "None that I would mention on television!" Some ideas but nothing satisfactory yet.

Fram had superficially similar appearances, but all stalks pointed in same direction, blueberries very resistant to erosion.

Does PoG stand out from others on Hills?

Don't expect it to be unique, seeing other, similar rocks in area. This one is one of the largest and best-formed. Won't know if it's typically until we roam around Hills some more.

How far into crater is Opportunity, how much of a stretch are layers?

Rover is 5 meters into crater by driving distance. Fine-scaled laminations on order of a few millimeters.

Anything on Earth that looks like PoG?

Nothing I know about. Some odds and ends, but nothing that combines all the appearances we are seeing.

What learned from RATing Tennessee rock and blueberries there?

Have routinely sliced through blueberries, don't show any internal structure, which is what's expected from concretions. Nice smooth cut surface.

Ian Goddard
2004-Jun-25, 08:02 PM
Looking at Pot of Gold. "Remarkably strange-looking rock, we have not gotten this thing figured out yet."
Thanks for the coverage! Spaceflightnow.com (http://spaceflightnow.com/mars/mera/040517lionrock.html) has an article and photo of the rock (http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/opportunity/20040512a/Sol104B_P2577_L256-B107R1.jpg), at least I think it's the same rock cited in your coverage.

2004-Jun-25, 09:29 PM
Looking at Pot of Gold. "Remarkably strange-looking rock, we have not gotten this thing figured out yet."
Thanks for the coverage! Spaceflightnow.com (http://spaceflightnow.com/mars/mera/040517lionrock.html) has an article and photo of the rock (http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/opportunity/20040512a/Sol104B_P2577_L256-B107R1.jpg), at least I think it's the same rock cited in your coverage.

Somehow you got an old article. Try this one (http://spaceflightnow.com/mars/mera/040625formations.html), with this rock. (http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/images/mer/2004-06-25/02-SS-02-closeup-med.jpg)

Ian Goddard
2004-Jun-25, 10:16 PM
Somehow you got an old article. Try this one (http://spaceflightnow.com/mars/mera/040625formations.html), with this rock. (http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/images/mer/2004-06-25/02-SS-02-closeup-med.jpg)
Duh, oops. :oops:

Sorry and thanks for the correction. The "Pot of Gold (http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/images/mer/2004-06-25/02-SS-02-closeup-med.jpg)" rock looks like a wonderful modern-art scupture.

2004-Jun-26, 12:32 AM
Guy Webster (818) 354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown (202) 358-1726
NASA Headquarters,Washington

News Release: 2004-161 June 25, 2004

Mars Rover Surprises Continue; Spirit, Too, Finds Hematite

On challenging slopes that NASA's Mars rovers began exploring this month, both Spirit and Opportunity have found new surprises for the folks back home.

Spirit rolled up to a knobby rock just past where the "Columbia Hills" start to rise from the surrounding plain. It touched the rock with a mineral-identifying instrument at the tip of its robotic arm and detected hematite. Hematite identified from orbit was NASA's key reason for choosing Opportunity's landing site halfway around Mars from these hills within Gusev Crater.

Opportunity, continuing its descent into "Endurance Crater," has found unexpected similarities between lower layers of rock it is examining for the first time and an overlying layer at "Eagle Crater" where, months ago, the rover discovered evidence that water once soaked the area.

"It's gratifying how well these machines keep performing, considering they've now nearly doubled their original three-month missions on Mars," said Chris Voorhees, rover mechanical systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. By the end of next week, Spirit will have worked on Mars for half a year. It has driven more than three times the design requirement of one kilometer (0.6 mile). The only symptom of wear or aging on either rover so far is increased friction in one wheel on Spirit. The rover team at JPL is beginning to consider good sites for the solar-powered robots to spend the period of martian winter when reduced daily sunshine cuts power supply to a minimum. In the nearer term, though, team members are eager to follow through on the new scientific findings.

Spirit's hematite finding is in a rock dubbed "Pot of Gold," about the size of a softball. "This rock has a shape as if somebody took a potato and stuck toothpicks in it, then put jelly beans on the ends of the toothpicks," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the rovers' science instruments. "How it got this crazy shape is anyone's guess. I haven't even heard a good theory yet."

Dr. Doug Ming, a rover science-team member from NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, said, "There's apparently some type of weathering, a removal of material, but we're still trying to determine whether it's by chemical or mechanical processes."

Further study of Pot of Gold could also help scientists assess what the hematite in it tells about past environmental conditions. "Hematite can form in a few different ways. Most of them require water, but it can also result from a dry, thermal oxidation process," Ming said. "It was hematite identified from orbit that made Meridiani Planum a compelling place to send Opportunity. There, we've learned that the hematite is indeed part of a water story. At Gusev we're just at the starting stage."

After examining Pot of Gold with the microscopic imager and two spectrometers on Spirit's arm, the rover backed away from the rock to re-approach at a better angle for using its rock abrasion tool to expose the rock's interior. In the rough and slippery terrain, that maneuver took several days. The Other nearby rocks may also be inspected before Spirit resumes longer drives exploring the Columbia Hills area. Also, engineers are planning an attempt to redistribute lubricant in Spirit's balky right front wheel before the rover leaves its current vicinity.

Team members presented both rovers' status at a press conference at JPL today. Opportunity has driven far enough into the stadium-sized Endurance Crater to put it within arm's reach of three layers of rock beneath a sulfate-rich layer. That area is similar to what Opportunity first examined in the shallower "Eagle Crater," where it landed in January. "We're trying to systematically characterize the stratigraphy of the crater as we drive down, analyzing each unit chemically and mineralogically with all the instruments available," said Nicholas Tosca, a science-team affiliate from the State University of New York, Stony Brook. The first two newly accessed layers resemble the upper layer in having sulfate salts and spherical concretions; both are signs of formation of the rocks under wet conditions.

Squyres said, "I had thought we might see just basalt below the top salty layer, but instead it's salty as far as we've been able to see so far. Every time we see more sulfates as we work down this stack, it adds to the amount of water that was necessary to make this happen."

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://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov and from Cornell University, at http://athena.cornell.edu .*


2004-Jun-29, 09:54 PM
"This rock has a shape as if somebody took a potato and stuck toothpicks in it, then put jelly beans on the ends of the toothpicks,"

So that's where jellybeans come from. I want a jellybean rock! ;)