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The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.
This image shows the Rover at work.
Click on image for full size
Image from: JPL/NASA

Soils explored by the Rover

One of the measurement objectives of the Mars Pathfinder mission was the examination of the composition and structure of the soil. As the Rover traversed the surface exploring the rocks of Mars, it also sampled the soil near those rocks. Some soil mechanics experiments were performed by spinning the Rover's wheels (mostly the rear wheels). As the wheels dug into the surface, the Rover discovered that much of the ground is made of dust, possibly deposited during many of the Martian Global Dust Storms.

Scientists have identified four types of soils in the Martian surface near the Pathfinder landing site.

  • Dark Soil (dark gray)
  • Bright Soil (bright red)
  • Disturbed Soil (disturbed by the passage of the Rover & airbags)
  • Lamb-like Soil (just found around the rock "the Lamb")
The soils show a variety of mixing and layering features including:
  • finely grained, cloddy & rocky soil, found near the rock named Pooh Bear
  • a cemented crust which couldn't be moved by the Rover's wheels, found near Pop-Tart & Scooby Doo
Everywhere the Rover passed, it disturbed the soil, and the soil underneath turned out to be a darker red-brown soil than it's surroundings. An example of disturbed soil occured when the Rover crossed the Mermaid Dune, shown here.

Results of the soil study include the fact that the soils do not seem to be the weathering products of the eroded rock nearby, thus they are not derived from the rocks nearby. Soils are similar, however, to those found at the Viking landing sites. Scientists are busy trying to figure out how these soils could have been created.


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