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Where should we trench?

View a larger image (305 kB) or learn about other sol 18 images.

The science team has been excited about the hypothesis that there may have been recent standing water at the landing site. The team has based this hypothesis on the observation of "mud cracks" in Pancam images near the landing site (see sol 17 story). The science team immediately began planning a "trenching" sol to trench into the mud crack surface on sol 18. "These mud cracks are fascinating features. Trenching through these features will be a challenging, but scientifically exciting operation. If these features are mud cracks, then there could have been recent standing water at the landing site," explained scientist Doug Ming.

Doug Ming

"There are two hypotheses that we will be testing by trenching into these mud crack features. First, the mud cracks may have formed when clays settled out of standing water in a low area. The standing water evaporated and the cracks were caused by the drying out of the clays. The second hypothesis is that the polygonal shape of the mud cracks is caused by the exfoliation or flaking of underlying sandstone," explained Ming.

If the trench is easily excavated, it will indicate that the material is mud or clay. However, if the material is hard and difficult to trench then the material is probably sandstone that has flaked off of the underlying bedrock.

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Last Updated: 17 August 2002

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