NASA TV NASA TV Web Mission Control Web Cam NASA TV on the Web NASA home page Mars Home JPL Home Page California Institute of Technology NASA JPL Home JPL Earth JPL Solar System JPL Stars & Galaxies JPL Technology JPL Home California Institute of Technology '03 Rover Home Mars Home Mars Fun Zone Mars Gallery MER Search

Human-Rover Partnership
sol 1-6
sol 7
sol 8
sol 9
sol 10
sol 11
sol 12
sol 13
sol 14
sol 15
sol 16
sol 17
sol 18
sol 19
sol 20
sol 21
sol 22
sol 23
sol 24
sol 25
sol 26

SOL:   1-6    7    8    9    10    11    12    13    14    15    16    17    18    19    20    21    22    23    24    25    26   

Bonneville or the Speedway?

Note: The black box in this image is a "data dropout" from the rover. The data did not properly transmit down from the rover in that portion of the image.

View a larger image (1 MB) or learn about other sol 12 images.

Bonneville or the speedway? That was the question debated by FIDO scientists as the Mars Exploration Rover team entered their sixth day of training exercises (which is sol 12 of the test). The excitement centered on the mission's freedom to explore in any of several different directions. Of course, that freedom also fueled debate as to what direction, what exploration, and what targets would maximize the amount of knowledge the team back at JPL could gain about the area around the rover in its remote location.

While discussing long-term planning, some FIDO participants strongly advocated an immediate run toward open areas 200 meters (656 feet) to the south. There, if at all, FIDO could encounter evidence of geological terrains different from those found near its landing site. But, back on sol 10, the science team had discovered "Ray's Clays" which showed evidence of water activity in the ancient past, and Bonneville is a location 30 meters (98 feet) away from Ray's Clays where the scientists may be able to see evidence of even more recent water activity.

By studying images sent by FIDO, the Bonneville site may seem like just a broad patch of brightly reflecting dirt in a stream valley to the northwest. But to the experienced eyes of FIDO scientists, Bonneville's reflectance suggests a thin accumulation of mud formed in the waning stages of a rare flood that brought flowing water into the channel. Mud appears to have accumulated in the pond, and as the water evaporated, the mud fractured into mud cracks. These mud cracks are silent witnesses to a history of water flow and subsequent drying.

"It's a gamble", said Andrew Knoll, Fisher Professor of Natural History at Harvard University, and one of the FIDO team's astrobiologists. "Bonneville may not be what we think it is. But, if this bright spot really formed in a pond, it will give us our best chance to 'follow the water' all the way to finding life."

So in the end, a convincing majority of the scientists agreed to take a short trip to the apparent mud flat named, "Bonneville" before beginning the longer trek south.

'03 Rover Home | Mars Home | Mars Fun Zone! | Mars Gallery | Search

Last Updated: 16 August 2002

Credits | Feedback | NASA Privacy Statement | Sitemap