Published: Mon, February 19, 2018
Science | By Hubert Green

NASA's Exploration Rover Opportunity Discovers Earth-Like Rock Stripes

NASA's Exploration Rover Opportunity Discovers Earth-Like Rock Stripes

Other than its science missions, MRO also works as a communications relay point between Earth and NASA's Mars rovers - Opportunity and Curiosity. Originally created to stay put for only 90 Sols, the Rover stood firm passing through all the climate and harsh weather conditions at the red planet Mars. The images reviled by NASA show some ground texture which is quite similar to the mountain slopes present on Earth which made by a process of freezing and thawing of wet soil for many years.

But it did and the rover reached its 5,000th sol on February 16. Now the rover is driving around Perseverance Valley, trying to determine whether it was water or wind that carved out a narrow, shallow channel in the soil, helping to inform scientists back on Earth about the long and complex history of Mars. Over last 14 years, the tiny robotic machine has come a long way and is still making surprising discoveries on the planet.

Powered by solar panels, the rover acts as a field geologist on the Martian surface and is now exploring a region known as Perseverance Valley on the western slope of Endeavor Crater, which it reached in 2011. Previously, the Lunokhod 2 had traveled 39 kilometers to the moon. But it might also be due to wind, downhill transport, other processes or a combination.

"We've reached lots of milestones, and this is one more", said Opportunity project manager John Callas, of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. At "Home Plate", a circular feature in the "Inner Basin" of the "Columbia Hills", Spirit discovered finely layered rocks that are as geologically compelling as those found by Opportunity. It's mysterious. It's exciting.

"Perseverance Valley is a special place", Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis said in the statement.

"We already knew it was unlike any place any Mars rover has seen before, even if we don't yet know how it formed, and now we're seeing surfaces that look like stone stripes", Arvidson added. "I think the set of observations we'll get will enable us to understand it".

On some inclinations in the Perseverance Valley, there have been found some gravel and sand particles taking the forms of narrow rows that alternate with wider rows. Well, the scientists have not detected the origin of the whole valley yet. They are also considering a range of possible explanations for the stripes, and remain uncertain about whether this texture results from processes of relatively modern Mars or a much older Mars. The scientists of the Opportunity rover are now examining evidence that suggests the presence of water, wind or ice. If the planet's obliquity were to change enough, water now frozen at the poles could vaporize into the atmosphere and turn to snow or frost closer to the equator, NASA said.

Like this: