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Press Release Images: Spirit
20-Jan-2004
NASA Mars Roverís First Soil Analysis Yields Surprises
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Spirit Switches on Its X-ray Vision
Spirit Switches on Its X-ray Vision

This image shows the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit probing its first target rock, Adirondack. At the time this picture was snapped, the rover had begun analyzing the rock with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer located on its robotic arm. This instrument uses alpha particles and X-rays to determine the elemental composition of martian rocks and soil. The image was taken by the rover's hazard-avoidance camera.

Image credit: NASA/JPL
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The Mystery Soil
The Mystery Soil

This high-resolution image from the panoramic camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the region containing the patch of soil scientists examined at Gusev Crater just after Spirit rolled off the Columbia Memorial Station. Scientists examined this patch on the 13th and 15th martian days, or sols, of Spirit's journey. Using nearly all the science instruments located on the rover's instrument deployment device or "arm," scientists yielded some puzzling results including the detection of a mineral called olivine and the appearance that the soil is stronger and more cohesive than they expected. Like detectives searching for clues, the science team will continue to peruse the landscape for explanations of their findings.

Data taken from the camera's red, green and blue filters were combined to create this approximate true color picture, acquired on the 12th martian day, or sol, of Spirit's journey.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

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A Puzzling Patch
A Puzzling Patch

The yellow box in this high-resolution image from the panoramic camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit outlines the patch of soil scientists examined at Gusev Crater just after Spirit rolled off the Columbia Memorial Station. Scientists examined this patch on the 13th and 15th martian days, or sols, of Spirit's journey. Using nearly all the science instruments located on the rover's instrument deployment device or "arm," scientists yielded some puzzling results including the detection of a mineral called olivine and the appearance that the soil is stronger and more cohesive than they expected. Like detectives searching for clues, the science team will continue to peruse the landscape for explanations of their findings.

Data taken from the camera's red, green and blue filters were combined to create this approximate true color picture, acquired on the 12th martian day, or sol, of Spirit's journey.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

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Super Soil?
Super Soil?

This animation made of images from the microscopic imager instrument on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the patch of soil scientists examined at Gusev Crater just after Spirit rolled off the Columbia Memorial Station. The upper left corner of the soil patch in part of this animation is illuminated by direct sunlight and thus appears brighter. The actual size of the patch is about 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) across. Scientists initially thought that the soil was dust-like and therefore would collapse as the instrument pressed down on it with approximately 4 ounces (113 grams) of force. But they were surprised when, as the rotating frames show, the soil barely moved under the instrument's weight. Scientists are still determining why this happened.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/US Geological Survey
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Super Rover's X-Ray Vision
Super Rover's X-Ray Vision

Located on the arm of the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer uses alpha particles and X-rays to determine the chemical make up of martian rocks and soils. This type of information helps scientists understand how the planet's crust was weathered and formed. Mars Exploration Rover team members used this palm-sized instrument on a small patch of martian soil just after Spirit rolled off the Columbia Memorial Station. They found that although the soil was very similar to what they had seen previously on Mars, the instrument's improved sensitivity allowed them to see new elements and subtle differences not detected before.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry
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A Rainbow of Martian Elements
A Rainbow of Martian Elements

This graph or spectrum taken by the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer onboard the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the variety of elements present in the soil at the rover's landing site. In agreement with past missions to Mars, iron and silicon make up the majority of the martian soil. Sulfur and chlorine were also observed as expected. Trace elements detected for the first time include zinc and nickel. These latter observations demonstrate the power of the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer to pick up the signatures of elements too faint to be seen before. The alpha particle X-ray spectrometer uses alpha particles and X-rays to measure the presence and abundance of all major rock-forming elements except hydrogen.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry
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Mysterious Lava Mineral on Mars
Mysterious Lava Mineral on Mars

This graph or spectrum captured by the Mössbauer spectrometer onboard the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the presence of three different iron-bearing minerals in the soil at the rover's landing site. One of these minerals has been identified as olivine, a shiny green rock commonly found in lava on Earth. The other two have yet to be pinned down. Scientists were puzzled by the discovery of olivine because it implies the soil consists at least partially of ground up rocks that have not been weathered or chemically altered. The black line in this graph represents the original data; the three colored regions denote individual minerals and add up to equal the black line.

The Mössbauer spectrometer uses two pieces of radioactive cobalt-57, each about the size of pencil erasers, to determine with a high degree of accuracy the composition and abundance of iron-bearing minerals in martian rocks and soil. It is located on the rover's instrument deployment device, or "arm."

Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Mainz

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A Powerful Yet Tiny Machine
A Powerful Yet Tiny Machine

This image taken at JPL shows the Mössbauer spectrometer, an instrument on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit that detects iron-bearing minerals in martian rocks and soil. Located on the rover's instrument deployment device, or "arm," this machine uses two pieces of radioactive cobalt-57, each about the size of pencil erasers, to determine with a high degree of accuracy the composition and abundance of iron-bearing minerals too difficult to detect by other means.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Mainz
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