1. Headline
  1. Headline
Spirit uses robotic arm to probe target rock
NASA / JPL
At the time this picture of Spirit probing its first target rock was snapped, the rover was analyzing it with its alpha particle X-ray spectrometer.
By

The Spirit rover has used its entire “Swiss army knife” tool kit for the first time to analyze the composition of the martian soil, scientists said Tuesday.

NASA scientists said the examination revealed as many questions as answers.

“We have now a number of hypotheses about what’s going on in the Martian soil,” said Steve Squyres, principal investigator from Cornell University, describing the soil analysis that the rover conducted on Monday.

The six-wheeled robot turned its attention Tuesday to the large, sharply angled rock scientists have dubbed “Adirondack.” Results of that testing were expected on Wednesday.

The Spirit rover is being used to examine its surroundings in the Gusev Crater as scientists search for evidence that the planet’s surface once had liquid water.

“We don’t know that this soil came from the Gusev Crater. The stuff could have come from somewhere else. It’s going to be very interesting to dig some holes and see if it looks the same” deeper down, Squyres said.

One instrument told scientists the soil contained a mixture of materials that included a mineral called olivine.

Scientists were surprised to find olivine, which is usually associated with volcanic eruptions, said Squyres. Mission members now believe the soil could be a layer of finely ground lava, he said.

“That would be a surprise to me,” he said. “I think we’re going to learn wonderful things by using the wheels to scrape and push” the soil away to see what’s underneath.

Another tool detected the elements iron, argon, sulfur, chlorine, nickel and zinc in the soil, said Johannes Brueckner of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Chemistry.

Most of the minerals had been noted during previous Mars expeditions, but this is the first time scientists have detected nickel and zinc, he said.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly reveals near-death ordeal

      Dr. Kent Brantly, the doctor infected with Ebola while working in West Africa, told Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview t...

    2. 'Forever in your debt': K-9 buried with full police honors after dying in line of duty
    3. 'I'm lovin' you': Woman with Alzheimer's connects with daughter in viral video
    4. Dreamy 'Downton' star, Pippa Middleton party at same GQ event
    5. Music lessons may boost poor kids' brainpower, study suggests

Spirit extended its robotic arm Tuesday and placed a drilling tool against the surface of the “Adirondack” rock to test the drill’s position, said Jennifer Trosper, mission manager for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Mission members were still deciding whether to use the tool to drill into the rock see if its inner composition matches readings they were collecting from its exterior using other instruments.
Scientists believe the rock is made of a volcanic rock called basalt.

“You can think of it as a time capsule that contains a history of its formation,” said Dave Des Marais of NASA’s Ames Research Center.

Trosper said the rover was doing remarkably well and was transmitting an “incredible amount of data. It’s like we got an Internet upgrade overnight.”

Spirit’s twin, Opportunity, is due to land Saturday on Meridiani Planum, which lies halfway around the planet from Spirit’s Jan. 3 landing site in Gusev Crater.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

Exclusive
  1. Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly reveals near-death ordeal

    Dr. Kent Brantly, the doctor infected with Ebola while working in West Africa, told Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview that he spent the morning praying for a colleague, the latest American infected with the virus.

    9/3/2014 2:19:05 AM +00:00 2014-09-03T02:19:05
  1. Kelly Gunderson via YouTube

    'I'm lovin' you': Woman with Alzheimer's connects with daughter in viral video

    9/2/2014 11:38:34 PM +00:00 2014-09-02T23:38:34
  1. Kirsty Grant / Kirsty Grant

    See why this baby is smiling... and why his dad is cringing

    9/2/2014 5:26:01 PM +00:00 2014-09-02T17:26:01
  1. Dan Hallman / Dan Hallman/Invision/AP

    Joan Rivers remains on life support, her daughter Melissa Rivers says

    9/2/2014 5:59:58 PM +00:00 2014-09-02T17:59:58
  1. Report: ISIS kills second American journalist

    SITE Intel Group, a jihadist monitoring organization, announced on Tuesday that the Islamic militant group ISIS has killed American journalist Steven Joel Sotloff.

    9/2/2014 5:34:24 PM +00:00 2014-09-02T17:34:24