Panning for Treasure

The Spirit mission team released a panorama and three-dimensional model of the Spirit landing site at Gusev Crater. Click the top banner to view a medium-sized rendering. Part of the spacecraft can be seen in the lower corner regions.

"The whole panorama is there before us," said rover science- team member Dr. Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. "It’s a great opening to the next stage of our mission."

The color panorama is a mosaic stitched from 225 frames taken by Spirit’s panoramic camera. It spans 75 frames across, three frames tall, with color information from shots through three different filters. The images were calibrated at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., home institution for Dr. Jim Bell, panoramic camera team leader.

Malin said, "Seeing the panorama totally assembled instead of in individual pieces gives a much greater appreciation for the position of things and helps in developing a sense of direction. I find it easier to visualize where I am on Mars when I can look at different directions in one view. For a field geologist, it’s exactly the kind of thing you want to look at to understand where you are."

Another new image product from Spirit shows a patch of intriguing soil near the lander in greater detail than an earlier view of the same area. Scientists have dubbed the patch "Magic Carpet" for how some soil behaved when scraped by a retracting airbag.

"It has been detached and folded like a piece of carpet sliding across the floor," said science-team member Dr. John Grotzinger of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge.

The three-dimensional model, based also on the pancam, shows an airbag drag mark and the soil texture underneath the top crust, or duricrust layer. The drag was made after the rover landed and its airbags were retracted, in preparation for egress of the rover onto the surface.

Gusev crater, panoramic camera, showing airbag drag mark in three dimensions. The top soil layer is thought to be a brittle crust, or duricrust.
Credit: NASA/JPL


What’s Next

Mission scientists expect to drive the Spirit rover off its base petal later in the week.

In two weeks, the second Opportunity rover will attempt to touchdown on the other side of Mars, near the equator at a site called Terra Meridiani. Meridiani is likely to have a more grey, volcanic look to it than Gusev’s flat plain, but with intriguing possibilities for also having a water-formed history and an aqueous mineral called hematite. The rock density at Meridiani is also hoped to be less than twenty percent of the landscape, which will make driving longer distances possible.

Related Web Pages

Testable Hypotheses for Gusev
Mars Odyssey Neutron Map of Hydrogen Abundances
Rover Science Team Eyes Sleepy Hollow
Pancam: Surveying the Scene – Martian Style
Interview with Nathalie Cabrol – Pasadena, Spirit Mission Sol 4