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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

NASA's Mars Rovers Continue to Explore & Amaze

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From the composition and texture of more than six different types of rock inspected, scientists deduced what this part of Mars was like long ago. "It was a hot, violent place with volcanic explosions and impacts," Squyres said. "Water was around, perhaps localized hot springs in some cases and trace amounts of water in other cases.

Aided by a good power supply from Spirit's solar cells, researchers have been using the rover at night for astronomical observations. One experiment watched the sky during a meteor shower as Mars passed through the debris trail left by a passage of Halley's comet. "We're taking advantage of a unique opportunity to do some bonus science we never anticipated we would be able to do," Said Cornell's Dr. Jim Bell , lead scientist for the rovers' panoramic cameras

Opportunity is examining bedrock exposures along a route between Endurance and Victoria craters. It recently reached what appears to be a younger layer of bedrock than examined inside Endurance. In Endurance, the lowest layers of bedrock were deposited as windblown dunes. Some of the upper layers were deposited as underwater sediments, indicating a change from drier to wetterconditions over time.

The bedrock Opportunity began seeing about two-thirds of the way toVictoria appears to lie higher than the upper layers at Endurance, but its texture is more like the lowest layer, petrified sand dunes. This suggeststhe change from drier to wetter environmental conditions may have been cyclical.

Iron-rich granules are abundant in all the layers at Endurance but are much smaller in the younger bedrock. These granules were formed by effects of water soaking the rocks. One possibility for why they are smaller is these layers spent less time wet. Another is the material in these layers had a different chemistry to begin with.


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