The scientific objectives of the Mars Exploration Rover mission are to:
- Search for and characterize a variety of rocks and soils that hold clues
to past water activity. In particular, samples sought will include those
that have minerals deposited by water-related processes such as
precipitation, evaporation, sedimentary cementation, or hydrothermal
- Determine the distribution and composition of minerals, rocks, and soils
surrounding the landing sites.
- Determine what geologic processes have shaped the local terrain and influenced the
chemistry. Such processes could include water or wind erosion,
sedimentation, hydrothermal mechanisms, volcanism, and cratering.
- Perform "ground truth" -- calibration and validation -- of
surface observations made by Mars orbiter instruments. This will help
determine the accuracy and effectiveness of various instruments that
survey Martian geology from orbit.
- Search for iron-containing minerals, identify and quantify relative
amounts of specific mineral types that contain water or were formed in
water, such as iron-bearing carbonates.
- Characterize the mineralogy and textures of rocks and soils and
determine the processes that created them.
- Search for geological clues to the environmental conditions that existed
when liquid water was present. Assess whether those environments were
conducive to life.