Feeds

Old-school Mars rover water findings confirmed

Veteran machine to resume work as summer approaches

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Old-school Mars rover Opportunity has found "clear evidence" of water in the first four months of tootling around the rim of the Endeavour Crater.

A vein of calcium, sulphur and gypsum. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

A vein of calcium, sulphur and gypsum. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

The crater is around four billion years old and 22km across and has been a long-term goal of the rover for three years now.

The impact that created Endeavour left a jumble of fused rock fragments around the rim. Later, a much smaller impact brought a chunk of rock to the surface for Opportunity to find.

The rover discovered that the first impact had released heated underground water that deposited zinc in that rock, while after the impact, cool water flowed through cracks in the ground and left traces of gypsum.

"These bright mineral veins are different from anything seen previously on Mars, and they tell a clear story of water flowing through cracks in the rocks," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for Opportunity.

"From landing until just before reaching the Endeavour rim, Opportunity was driving over sandstone made of sulfate grains that had been deposited by water and later blown around by the wind.

"These gypsum veins tell us about water that flowed through the rocks at this exact spot. It's the strongest evidence for water that we've ever seen with Opportunity."

Squyres and 27 other boffins got together to publish the report on Opportunity's findings in Science.

Opportunity completed its original three-month mission on the Red Planet eight years ago but still managed to reach the Endeavour rim last summer. For the past four months it has been working at Greeley Haven at the rim of the crater, but reduced daylight during the Martian winter and accumulated dust on the rover's solar area have meant that its energy supplies are too low for driving.

"The days are now growing longer, and the Sun is moving higher in the sky at Endeavour Crater. We expect Opportunity to resume driving in the next two months and continue exploring other parts of the crater's rim," said manager John Callas at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Researchers are hoping that Opportunity can get to one of the deposits of clay minerals that have been detected at the rim by observations from orbit, which could be more evidence of a non-acidic wet phase in the planet's history.

NASA's newest rover Curiosity was launched last year and is expected to reach the Gale Crater in August for its mission to discover if the region could have environmental conditions favourable to supporting microbial life. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.