Multi-purpose, Multi-planet Benefits from the Science Instruments
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Many instruments on the FIDO rover measure the composition of soil
and rocks. They work in concert together validating each other and
The APXS determines what chemical elements, such as carbon and
iron are in soil and rocks, while the Mössbauer instrument can tell which
form of iron is contained in minerals within the soil.
As Tom Economou, a scientist from the University of Chicago,
explains, "For example, let's say we had a cookie, a cake, and a
soda sitting on a table. The APXS would be able to tell that there was
carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen--that is, the basic elements that make up
sugar molecules. The Mössbauer instrument could then tell us how
much of that sugar was inside the cookie versus the cake versus the soda."
Multiple instruments thus help scientists confirm results…and
sometimes uncover surprises that other instruments can't detect.
"The soil sample taken for the FIDO test yesterday turned out
some nice, consistent results with the APXS and Mössbauer in relation to
iron-bearing minerals such as hematite," says Scott McLennan, a
professor of geochemistry at Stony Brook University in New York.
"But, the Mini-TES instrument picked up a signal for the mineral
feldspar in a rock as well. However, the APXS didn't detect that."
Both the chemists and mineralogists continue to study their data in hopes
of finally resolving these important outstanding questions.
When the scientists aren't thinking about Mars, they're thinking of
other ways to apply the "talents" of their instruments here
on Earth. Take Paulo Antonio De Souza, Jr., for instance. He's a physicist
at CVRD (Companhia Vale do Rio Doce) from Brazil who uses the Mössbauer
Spectrometer to help find the source of different iron minerals in the air
and within the soil and rocks.
"Since we designed a small, lightweight version of the Mössbauer
for use on Mars, we have been able to take the instrument and better
use it on Earth. For example, the instrument can characterize particles
in the air and figure out where they came from, whether from a cement
plant, a quarry, or coal mine." Paulo recently received the
Willy Korf Award for Young Excellence for his work with the Mössbauer in
environmental science, which helps reduce pollution in urban industrial areas.
Paulo Antonio De Souza, Jr.
The Mössbauer can also help improve the productivity in the
steel industry. For example, the iron-ore pellets in blast furnaces may
create a lot of dust, which reduces productivity. The Mössbauer can figure
out which pellets produce the least amount of dust so furnace operators can
choose the best pellets to use. "We even used the Mössbauer to
figure out what materials the Greeks used to paint a 2,500 year old vase.
We discovered hematite in the paint which is a common mineral on
All these benefits on Earth have come directly from developing Mars