‘Significant findings’ on Mars mission expected

‘Significant findings’ on Mars mission expected

LOS ANGELES – The Opportunity rover has apparently found something on Mars that’s got scientist buzzing back on Earth.

Nasa plans to announce “significant findings” this week involving the six-wheeled rover that has been searching the dusty Martian landscape since January for any history of water. “The primary mission of the rovers really dealt with the history of water on Mars and we’ll be reporting new findings that bear on that,” Nasa spokesman Don Savage said on Monday from Washington, D.C.”I can’t go into any detail without telling you what it was.”Since Nasa launched the twin robot geologists last summer, scientists hoped the rovers would find minerals that could reveal whether the planet was ever wet enough to support life.Other than a statement characterising the findings as “significant”, the space agency revealed no details in advance.However, participants in the twin rover mission managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said last week that scientists were excited by data that Opportunity was sending back to Earth.Opportunity has been studying an outcropping of layered rock close to its landing site in a small crater on an area of Mars called Meridiani Planum.A piece dubbed ‘El Capitan’ has generated much of the latest interest.Rob Manning, a mission manager, said a week ago that he couldn’t comment on the science team’s speculation about the findings but that there was “probably as much enthusiasm as we’ve ever had by the science team and a lot of intense discussions over these last several days”.Opportunity, as well as its twin Spirit, has been using microscopic photography, rock abrasion tools that grind off surface layers and spectrometers to examine the Martian landscape.While Opportunity has stayed close to its landing site to explore the outcropping, Spirit has been travelling on the other side of the planet, studying rocks and soil en route to a big crater named ‘Bonneville’ that scientists hope will give the rover a view of geology well below the surface.- Nampa-AP”The primary mission of the rovers really dealt with the history of water on Mars and we’ll be reporting new findings that bear on that,” Nasa spokesman Don Savage said on Monday from Washington, D.C.”I can’t go into any detail without telling you what it was.”Since Nasa launched the twin robot geologists last summer, scientists hoped the rovers would find minerals that could reveal whether the planet was ever wet enough to support life.Other than a statement characterising the findings as “significant”, the space agency revealed no details in advance.However, participants in the twin rover mission managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said last week that scientists were excited by data that Opportunity was sending back to Earth.Opportunity has been studying an outcropping of layered rock close to its landing site in a small crater on an area of Mars called Meridiani Planum.A piece dubbed ‘El Capitan’ has generated much of the latest interest.Rob Manning, a mission manager, said a week ago that he couldn’t comment on the science team’s speculation about the findings but that there was “probably as much enthusiasm as we’ve ever had by the science team and a lot of intense discussions over these last several days”.Opportunity, as well as its twin Spirit, has been using microscopic photography, rock abrasion tools that grind off surface layers and spectrometers to examine the Martian landscape.While Opportunity has stayed close to its landing site to explore the outcropping, Spirit has been travelling on the other side of the planet, studying rocks and soil en route to a big crater named ‘Bonneville’ that scientists hope will give the rover a view of geology well below the surface.- Nampa-AP

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