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Press Release Images: Spirit

The Trench Throws a Dirt Clod at Scientists

This picture, obtained by the microscopic imager on NASA's Opportunity rover during sol 24, February 17 PST, shows soil clods exposed in the upper wall of the trench dug by Opportunity's right front wheel on sol 23.

The clods were not exposed until the trench was made. The presence of soil clods implies weak bonding between individual soil grains. The chemical agent or mineral that causes the dirt to bind together into a clod, which scientists call the "bonding agent," is currently unknown. Moessbauer and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer measurements of this spot, planned for sol 25, might help explain the bonding, which would ultimately help the rover team understand how geological processes vary across the red planet. In any case, the bonds between soil grains here cannot be very strong because the wheel dug down through this layer with little trouble.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/USGS

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Spirit Does a "Jig" at Laguna Hollow

This front hazard-avoidance image taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit on sol 45 shows Spirit in its new location after a drive totaling about 20 meters (65.6 feet).

The circular depression that Spirit is in, dubbed "Laguna Hollow," was most likely formed by a small impact.

Scientists were interested in reaching Laguna Hollow because of the location's abundance of very fine, dust-like soil. The fine material could be atmospheric dust that has settled into the depression, or a salt-based material that causes crusts in the soils and coating on rocks. Either way, scientists hope to be able to characterize the material and broaden their understanding of this foreign world.

To help scientists get a better look at the variations in the fine-grained dust at different depths, controllers commanded Spirit to "jiggle" its wheels in the soil before backing away to a distance that allows the area to be reached with the robotic arm. Spirit will likely spend part of sol 46 analyzing this area with the instruments on its robotic arm.

Credit: NASA/JPL

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Spirit's Path to Bonneville

Scientists created this overlay map by laying navigation and panoramic camera images taken from the surface of Mars on top of one of Spirit's descent images taken as the spacecraft descended to the martian surface. The map was created to help track the path that Spirit has traveled through sol 44 and to put into perspective the distance left to travel before reaching the edge of the large crater nicknamed "Bonneville."

The area boxed in yellow contains the ground images that have been matched to and layered on top of the descent image. The yellow line shows the path that Spirit has traveled and the red dashed line shows the intended path for future sols. The blue circles highlight hollowed areas on the surface, such as Sleepy Hollow, near the lander, and Laguna Hollow, the sol 45 drive destination. Scientists use these hollowed areas - which can be seen in both the ground images and the descent image - to correctly match up the overlay.

Field geologists on Earth create maps like this to assist them in tracking their observations.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

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