NASA scientists say the Mars rovers have found what they were looking for – hard evidence that the red planet was once “soaking wet.”
“We have concluded the rocks here were once soaked in liquid water,” said Steve Squyres of Cornell University. He’s the principal investigator for the science instruments on Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit.
“The second question we’ve tried to answer: Were these rocks altered by liquid water? We believe definitively, yes,” Squyres said.
Squyres and other NASA officials made the announcement at NASA headquarters in Washington, after several days of giving tantalizing hints that something significant had been discovered.
Some of the stories associated with the graphical pictures at this link also tell the story.
They had a live webcast of today’s press release at 2 this afternoon and I listened to it while I worked. Pretty darn nifty! I didn’t get to hear everything, but what I did here was really cool, I just hope I didn’t absentmindly incorporate anything I heard into the letters I was writing…
I can see it now: “What do you mean NASA doesn’t like my fence because the blueberries are actually gray?”
I think Dave and everyone else working on the Mars rovers deserve a huge pat on the back for this. As far as I can tell, Spirit and Opportunity have completed their mission (proving that Mars once was covered in water), anything else now is icing on the cake. Very, very, very nice icing, that is :p.
So, to NASA, congratulations on a job well done.
Of course, now the question is, since we’ve proved that there once was liquid water on Mars, was there life, and is it possible still there today…?
I just recieved the April (yes, April) issue for Astronomy Magazine. The cover is a picture of the Martian landscape from Spirit’s point of view, and the very top headline is “Envisioning a Wet Martian Past.” It’s a pretty long article, I haven’t gotten a chance to read the whole thing yet…But, yeah.
This stuff rules. That just about sums it up…
On average, the Sun-Mars distance is approximately 185% of the Sun-Earth distance (281x10^6Km, vs. 149x10^6Km). The solar illumination level (tau) at the surface of Mars is typically higher than at the equivalent latitude on Earth, due to the lower atomospheric column depth and reduced amounts of suspended materials. Localized solar-induced heating effects at the surface can be significant.
Saturated salt brines can remain liquid well below zero degrees farenheit.
In January, the noon-time temperature on the surface of Mars at the Spirit rover landing site was approximately 35 degrees (F) WARMER than it was in Boston, MA.
At equatorial latitudes, the summer surface temperature can get up to around 50 degrees F.
Subsurface temperatures increase above surface temperatures. That, combined with the pressures induced by the overburden, create conditions conducive for the formation of subsurface aquifers. One of the leading theories concerning the distribution of water in the Martian environment results in significant amounts of water (approximately twice the amount contained in Lake Superior) being held in active aquifers extending from the Mars polar caps (which are known to contain water ice in addition to CO2 ice) to mid-latitudes.
The Thermal Emissivity Spectrometer aboard the Mars Odyssey mission has mapped hydrogen spectra in the shallow subsurface in areas covering over half of the planet (extending from the poles to the mid-equatorial regions). For the volumes detected, subsurface aquifers are the most probable explanation for the detected signals (note: even more precise observations are expected when the MARSIS sub-surface radar is deployed from the ESA Mars Express spacecraft on April 20, 2004).
Mars today is very different than it was aeons ago. The announcement concerning the current discoveries has to do with the ancient water history of Mars, and what it was once like - not what it is like now. You might want to read up on it here and even more here to make sure that you understand this discovery before you post again.
Thank you! Many of the formal major objectives for the Mars Exploration Rover project have been accomplished. One of the big ones that still remains is to have the rovers really get out and DRIVE! There is a formal requirement for at least one of the rovers to demonstrate a traverse distance of at least 600 meters. This is being done to validate the rover navigation technologies and mechanisms, in anticipation of larger, longer-lived rover missions planned for the end of the decade.
We are currently about half way through a 250-meter traverse from the original landing location to Bonneville Crater at the Spirit rover site. At the Opportunity landing location in Meridiani Planum, the rover has only gone a few dozen meters in total so far. However, it is anticipated that once we drive out of the 20-meter crater that the rover currently calls “home,” we will head on a traverse of several hundred meters to a large unnamed crater to the east. Following the crater visits by both of the rovers, there are extended traverse plans that could have each of the rovers driving close to 2 kilometers. So pedal-to-the-metal time may be coming soon!