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NASA Gets A Good Look At Mars Soil And A True Puzzle
Chicago Tribune/Yahoo ^ | 1-7-2004 | Jeremy Manier

Posted on 01/07/2004 3:41:30 PM PST by blam

NASA gets good look at Mars soil and a true puzzle

By Jeremy Manier, Tribune staff reporter

Opening its primary digital eyes for the first time, the rover Spirit on Tuesday transmitted the most detailed photos ever sent from the surface of Mars, revealing an alien vista of deep russet sands, a mysteriously sticky form of soil and a far-off mesa in the light orange haze.

The rocky scene is about four times sharper than any previous photos from the planet, and experts said the probe should be sending even larger, three-dimensional views of its terrain within a few days. Scientists will use those photos and information from an infrared imaging instrument to choose the most promising places for the rover to start visiting next week in search of signs that Mars once had a habitat suitable for life.

It's difficult to imagine life surviving now in the barren landscape around the rover--though mission planners have said one goal of the robotic Mars expeditions is to scout out possible landing sites in case the U.S. ever sends astronauts to Mars.

But on Tuesday, researchers analyzing the new images took a moment to look at the planet with simple wonder.

"My reaction has been one of shock and awe," said Jim Bell, leader of the mission's imaging team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

The sticky-looking soil may be the first true puzzle of the mission, scientists said. Technicians believe the probe's landing airbags disturbed the dirt near the rover when they retracted back under the craft, soon after the landing. The dirt that was dragged by the airbags now looks oddly folded, almost as if it were damp clay.

"It looks like mud, but it can't be mud," said principal investigator Steven Squyres. "It's not like anything that I have ever seen before. It's very weird-looking stuff."

Researchers believe Martian soil in the rover's vicinity is bone-dry near the surface, adding to the mystery. Squyres said it's possible that moisture evaporating from below left a salty, cohesive crust at the surface.

(Excerpt) Read more at story.news.yahoo.com ...


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: look; mars; nasa; puzzle; soil
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My take on the soil: The water on Mars is in the form of tiny ice crystals mixed with very fine dust.
1 posted on 01/07/2004 3:41:33 PM PST by blam
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2 posted on 01/07/2004 3:42:40 PM PST by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: blam
My take on the soil:


3 posted on 01/07/2004 3:43:45 PM PST by martin_fierro (Any musical with a PBY-5 Catalina in it can't be all bad.)
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To: blam
"a mysteriously sticky form of soil"

Uh-oh.

4 posted on 01/07/2004 3:44:08 PM PST by Chunga
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To: blam
The dirt that was dragged by the airbags now looks oddly folded, almost as if it were damp clay.

Pond scum

5 posted on 01/07/2004 3:45:37 PM PST by RightWhale (Repeal the Law of the Excluded Middle)
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To: blam
Interesting article. To me Mars looks a lot like Monument Valley without the monuments :)
6 posted on 01/07/2004 3:46:08 PM PST by mewzilla
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To: F14 Pilot
ping
7 posted on 01/07/2004 3:47:15 PM PST by Pan_Yans Wife (Freedom is a package deal - with it comes responsibilities and consequences.)
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To: Chunga
"a mysteriously sticky form of soil"

Could they have landed in New Jersey?
8 posted on 01/07/2004 3:47:38 PM PST by kcar
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To: blam
Heres the sticky stuff
<IMG height=307 alt=" Click For Small photo" src="http://us.news1.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/p/rids/20040106/i/r593415438.jpg" width=410

9 posted on 01/07/2004 3:50:05 PM PST by Slicksadick
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To: Slicksadick
Martian coprolites?
10 posted on 01/07/2004 3:51:16 PM PST by mewzilla
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To: mewzilla

Click for Large Photo

11 posted on 01/07/2004 3:51:37 PM PST by Slicksadick
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To: blam

12 posted on 01/07/2004 3:52:21 PM PST by Fitzcarraldo
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To: blam
This ought to be interesting. The rover has it's first mystery to solve, and it doesn't even have to leave the lander. As Spock might say, 'Fascinating.'
13 posted on 01/07/2004 3:54:29 PM PST by Viking2002
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To: kcar
Could they have landed in New Jersey?

LOL! Now that's funny.

14 posted on 01/07/2004 3:55:40 PM PST by Cuttnhorse
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To: RightWhale
Pond scum

That would be way KEWL!

15 posted on 01/07/2004 3:56:01 PM PST by null and void (One hand giveth, the other taketh away...)
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To: Fitzcarraldo
I have had to sit through DOH-DOH Island a couple of times since Christmas. It grows on you.

And that is not a good thing.

16 posted on 01/07/2004 3:56:03 PM PST by Glenn (What were you thinking, Al?)
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To: Slicksadick
The dark, oblong, rock on the right, middle of the picture looks like a black tennis shoe.
17 posted on 01/07/2004 3:57:15 PM PST by Dianna
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To: Slicksadick
fungus, algae
18 posted on 01/07/2004 3:57:16 PM PST by RightWhale (Repeal the Law of the Excluded Middle)
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To: Slicksadick
Are they going to try to sample that yucky looking mass of stuff?
19 posted on 01/07/2004 3:57:33 PM PST by mewzilla
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To: blam
My take is that perhaps any remaining iron in the "iron oxide suface material" is slightly magnetized.

If you've ever played with iron filings and a magnet, I think you'll know where I'm coming from. The apparent cohesiveness of the soil may not be due to liquid content, which everyone obviously has a hard time with given the extremely low temps on mars...

Just my two cents, which is about all a wild guess is worth. :)
20 posted on 01/07/2004 3:58:06 PM PST by asb3pe
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To: null and void
I'm suggesting biological origin of the textured material. Wishful thinking, probably.
21 posted on 01/07/2004 3:58:56 PM PST by RightWhale (Repeal the Law of the Excluded Middle)
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To: blam
"a mysteriously sticky form of soil"

Now look for the toilet paper, guys!

22 posted on 01/07/2004 4:03:08 PM PST by BobS
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To: RightWhale
Several hundred scientists would have a mass faint! I might just get a bit wobbly, myself.
23 posted on 01/07/2004 4:05:47 PM PST by Frank_Discussion (May the wings of Liberty never lose a feather!)
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To: blam
A mysteriously sticky form of soil?

Look for the BLUE DRESS!

24 posted on 01/07/2004 4:07:54 PM PST by jaz.357 (We should be more open-minded toward people trying to kill us.)
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To: asb3pe
I don't think iron oxide is magnetic. Along the same lines, though, a really fine dust might stick via static electricity. I am not really seeing that as the cause of this, however.

It looks darker than the surrounding soil, as if it is wet. We may have found a covered layer of liquid slightly below the dust.

I AM INTRIGUED!!
25 posted on 01/07/2004 4:09:15 PM PST by Frank_Discussion (May the wings of Liberty never lose a feather!)
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To: asb3pe
Damm you! We want life! Pond scum, fungus, algae, anything!
26 posted on 01/07/2004 4:09:25 PM PST by null and void (One hand giveth, the other taketh away...)
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To: RightWhale
Wishful thinking, probably.

Probably, maybe...

27 posted on 01/07/2004 4:10:17 PM PST by null and void (One hand giveth, the other taketh away...)
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To: blam; carlo3b
a mysteriously sticky form of soil

Queso Dip?

After all the Moon is made of cheese so maybe the Moon came from Mars.

28 posted on 01/07/2004 4:11:08 PM PST by ChefKeith (NASCAR...everything else is just a game!)
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To: null and void
Hey, if it's water, then we've gone straight from hugh to HUGE! Water is a very good thing to find this easily, if this is the case. If it's biomass, well, WOW.
29 posted on 01/07/2004 4:12:15 PM PST by Frank_Discussion (May the wings of Liberty never lose a feather!)
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To: Frank_Discussion
It looks kinda like a fat snake's skin, like something molted.
30 posted on 01/07/2004 4:14:09 PM PST by mewzilla
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To: mewzilla
Heh... nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure?
31 posted on 01/07/2004 4:15:15 PM PST by Frank_Discussion (May the wings of Liberty never lose a feather!)
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To: Frank_Discussion
LOL. Remember The Andromeda Strain...
32 posted on 01/07/2004 4:16:54 PM PST by mewzilla
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To: blam
"It looks like mud, but it can't be mud,"

I love this kind of thinking. When they went to the volcanic vents on the Ocean floor they said "no life could survive there", but it teams with life. When they went 7 miles to the ocean bottom they said "no life could survive there", but as soon as they turned on the lights, a fish swam away.

33 posted on 01/07/2004 4:17:50 PM PST by Falcon4.0
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To: mewzilla
It's been a loooong time...
34 posted on 01/07/2004 4:18:59 PM PST by Frank_Discussion (May the wings of Liberty never lose a feather!)
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To: asb3pe
There should be a magnet on the end of the geology arm. I forget what's supposed to be in any geology field kit. Streak plate, magnet, scratcher . . .
35 posted on 01/07/2004 4:19:06 PM PST by RightWhale (Repeal the Law of the Excluded Middle)
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To: null and void
Damm you! We want life!

I give you... life!


36 posted on 01/07/2004 4:19:40 PM PST by Ichneumon
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To: mewzilla
It looks kinda like a fat snake's skin, like something molted.

Sandworm?

37 posted on 01/07/2004 4:19:43 PM PST by null and void (One hand giveth, the other taketh away...)
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To: blam
It's 100 degrees below zero there, even in daytime. Ice crystals mixed with sand wouldn't produce any stickiness under those conditions, would they? Unless they melted from the impact and residual heat of the lander and instantly froze in those shapes. I guess Spirit will find out in a few days.

BTW, have you seen the full video (10 minutes worth) of this mission at www.maasdigital.com? It's amazing. Unfortunaterly it's down now because of the traffic.

38 posted on 01/07/2004 4:20:07 PM PST by Batrachian
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To: null and void
Spice bloom!
39 posted on 01/07/2004 4:20:23 PM PST by RightWhale (Repeal the Law of the Excluded Middle)
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To: null and void
Damm you! We want life! Pond scum, fungus, algae, anything!


40 posted on 01/07/2004 4:22:00 PM PST by ElkGroveDan (Fighting for Freedom and Having Fun)
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To: blam

Watch for NY Times Headline:

Mars Probe Commandeered by Halliburton to Search for Tar Sands on Red Planet

41 posted on 01/07/2004 4:22:28 PM PST by Unmarked Package
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To: Frank_Discussion
In the upper right hand corner, it looks like there are little pockmarks in the whatever-it-is. Could the what's-it just be some molten rock that was thrown up then went splat and hardened after a meteor strike?
42 posted on 01/07/2004 4:22:46 PM PST by mewzilla
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To: Falcon4.0
"It looks like mud, but it can't be mud," I love this kind of thinking. When they went to the volcanic vents on the Ocean floor they said "no life could survive there", but it teams with life. When they went 7 miles to the ocean bottom they said "no life could survive there", but as soon as they turned on the lights, a fish swam away.

Clarke's Laws:

1. "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."

2. "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."

3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

-- Arthur C. Clarke


43 posted on 01/07/2004 4:22:51 PM PST by Ichneumon
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To: blam

It’s the spice

44 posted on 01/07/2004 4:23:45 PM PST by Steve Van Doorn
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To: Unmarked Package
Watch for NY Times Headline: Mars Probe Commandeered by Halliburton to Search for Tar Sands on Red Planet

Or: "Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Coverage More Extensive Than Realized"

45 posted on 01/07/2004 4:24:03 PM PST by Ichneumon
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To: mewzilla
Possibly. We'll have to wait for spirit to go exploring to check it out more thoroughly, and that is going to be sometime around the 14th.

*sigh*
46 posted on 01/07/2004 4:24:35 PM PST by Frank_Discussion (May the wings of Liberty never lose a feather!)
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To: Unmarked Package
Watch for NY Times Headline: Mars Probe Commandeered by Halliburton to Search for Tar Sands on Red Planet

CORRECTION: Mars Probe Commandeered by Dick Cheney's former company to Search for Tar Sands on Red Planet

47 posted on 01/07/2004 4:24:44 PM PST by ElkGroveDan (Fighting for Freedom and Having Fun)
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To: Frank_Discussion
The 14th? Uh-oh, did Marvin manage to throw a spanner in the works after all?
48 posted on 01/07/2004 4:26:03 PM PST by mewzilla
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To: BobS
""a mysteriously sticky form of soil""

dingleberries....?

49 posted on 01/07/2004 4:26:29 PM PST by spokeshave (TDIDS = The Dow is Driving Skyward = Tom Daschle is Deeply Saddened)
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To: blam
Maybe it's just magnetic.
50 posted on 01/07/2004 4:27:21 PM PST by Brilliant
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