View Full Version : Discussion: Spirit Examines the Martian Soil

2004-Jan-19, 05:33 PM
SUMMARY: NASA's Spirit rover reached out and examined the Martian soil with its microscope instrument at the end of its robotic arm; this is the first microscopic image ever taken of another planet. The microscope can reveal objects as small as the width of a human hair, and will help scientists look at the fine details of rock to learn if they were formed by standing water. The rover will examine the same area with two other instruments: the Mössbauer Spectrometer to find iron-bearing minerals, and the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer which identifies the elements in rocks and soils.

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2004-Jan-19, 05:36 PM
when will the data be made available from these tests? or is it already availanel somewhere sneaky?

2004-Jan-19, 06:02 PM
Why would iron-bearing minerals be important?

2004-Jan-19, 06:11 PM
I can think of 3 possible reasons from the top of my tired head:

1. If they find hydrated forms of iron, that will indicate the presence of water at some time.

2. If the iron is in a reduced form it can (not always) imply the past presence of life - the reason i say this is because this is what we found in small amounts in the western australian desert when i was in the mining industry - we found it to have been an estuary.

3. maybe exploration for a potential commercial operation?

2004-Jan-20, 12:35 AM
Display objects as fine as the human hair...awesome! What a suprise we have ahead! :D

2004-Jan-20, 05:18 PM
If the red color of Mars was caused by the oxidation of iron, Mars must have once supported an oxygen atmosphere. As an oxygen atmosphere could only have been produced by photosynsisis, the ancient lakes of Mars must have supported large populations of primative plant life. If the primative plants were similar to diatoms found in our lakes, a "hair size" particle is too large to detect fossil diatoms.

The Meal
2004-Jan-22, 06:02 PM
Wacky. Eric T. Baumgartner taught my senior Controls course (Michigan Tech, would have been Winter '94-'95). He is a great teacher, very thorough and methodical (just what one needs to comprehend controls in a Mechanical Engineering curriculum). I was hoping he'd stick around when I re-enlisted in the MSME program, but was sad to hear he went off to the JPL.

After seeing that he's heading up the MER robotic arm work, I'm made happy again. I should send Dr. Baumgartner an email...

~The Meal