|Goals: Mission Design
Goal 3: Characterize the Geology of Mars
[more on Goal 3 for the entire Mars Exploration Program]
The rovers are equipped with some of the tools a geologist would
carry into the field, as well as the scientific instruments
a geologist would use in a lab to study collected samples.
Detailed mineralogical study of rock samples will reveal their
content and the conditions in which they formed. A tool to scrape
away weathered surfaces of rocks will expose fresh surfaces for
Of particular interest to the rover science team are minerals containing the element iron, which interacts strongly with liquid water. Did the
reddish Martian soil form billions of years ago when the planet may have been wetter
and warmer, or is the rusty soil simply the result of ongoing interaction of
an oxidizing atmosphere with the surface rocks? Other searches for geological evidence of water will be for clays,
carbonates, salts and other minerals that formed in the presence of water.
The local measurements made by the rovers at two landing sites
will be used to calibrate similar measurements made from orbit, so
that we can extend what we learn to larger regions of Mars.