FIDO Goes for a Walk
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This type of picture would be a welcome relief for scientists during
operations on Mars. Because the airbags are at a short distance away
from the rover, scientists and engineers can conclude that the rover
successfully drove off the lander in a process called, "egress."
Egress is a tricky part of the mission and it will be a glorious day on Mars
to discover that the rover is ready to roll!
Peter Smith, a scientist from the University of Arizona, looked at the
mesas and buttes in the distance of the picture, noting that they reveal
clues about the past climate on Mars. "Mesas and buttes are
evidence of erosion. Perhaps an ancient ocean once covered this land,
leaving behind layered deposits after the water retreated. In more recent
history, these layers have been heavily worn down, forming cliffs and
canyons that are the banks of an extensive river system that may
eventually lead to the sea. Seeing features of this sort on Mars would be
evidence for an ancient ocean."
The next step will begin the interesting process of debate, when
experts from different scientific fields start prioritizing where the rover
should explore now that scientists are confident that the rover is finally
free and clear of its airbags.