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The Winter 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist includes a variety of educational resources, ranging from astronomy to glaciers. Check out the other publications and classroom materials 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 objectives of the Mars Pathfinder mission was the examination of the composition of the soil and how it was laid down. As the Rover traversed the surface exploring the rocks of Mars, it also sampled the soil near those rocks. Soil 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 found three types of soils in the Martian surface near the Pathfinder landing site (+ one special type).

  • Dark Soil (dark gray)
  • Bright Soil (bright red)
  • Disturbed Soil (disturbed by the passage of the Rover & movement of the airbags, & sort of dark-red)
  • Lamb-like Soil (just found around the rock "the Lamb")
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, suggesting that parts of the surface of Mars have a top-coat. An example of disturbed soil occured when the Rover crossed the Mermaid Dune, shown here. In general, the soils seem to be similar to those soils found at the Viking landing sites.


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