Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now  arrow.png

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

    Please leave this field empty
MER Update

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Rolls onto Surface of Meridiani Planum, Mars and Confirms Presence of Hematite

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl

31-01-2004 11:00 CST

Topics: Opportunity, Spirit, mission status, Mars Exploration Rovers

Opportunity rolled off her lander and onto the dark red Martian soil at Meridiani Planum early Saturday morning, at about 1:50 a.m., Pacific Standard Time, just one week after the robot field geologist arrived on the Red Planet.

When the rover returned the first signal indicating she had begun her journey, mission control center erupted in cheers, as the strains of The Who's "Going Mobile" rocked the room.

Confirmation that Opportunity had safely navigated the 10-foot (3 meter) drive straight down the lander ramp and onto the surface came about an hour and 10 minutes later from data relayed by Mars Odyssey at 3:01 a.m. PST.

The first picture she returned, taken by the rear hazard camera, shows the now empty lander and the set of rover tire tracks leading away from it, much as the image returned by Spirit when she rolled off her lander a little more than two weeks ago.

Opportunity's mission is to explore the planet's geological history and search for signs of water, and already she has confirmed the presence of hematite, the iron oxide that on Earth usually forms in processes involving water. The robot geologist's mini-thermal emission spectrometer -- Mini-TES -- recorded the spectral signature of hematite in the layer of coarse ground materials covering the bedrock that lies in the rim of the crater into which she rolled last Saturday.

An enormous amount of hematite had been measured at Meridiani Planum from the thermal emission spectrometer on Mars Global Surveyor a couple of years ago, and the gray crystalline mineral is the prime reason the site was chosen for exploration. It is possible, however, for hematite to form from volcanic ash without water.

Phil Christensen, the lead scientist Mini-TES, and the MER scientists have yet to confirm that the hematite on Mars was formed by a process involving water. That will take further investigation by Opportunity, up close with the Mini-TES and other instruments.
See other posts from January 2004


Or read more blog entries about: Opportunity, Spirit, mission status, Mars Exploration Rovers


Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to submit a comment. Log in now.
Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

Blog Search


Advocate for Space!

Fifteen years ago, Society members and passionate space advocates like you helped save the Pluto mission. Now we can do the same for missions to Europa and Mars.

Join over 27,600 people who have completed their petition and consider a donation to support advocacy efforts.

Sign Our Petition

Featured Images

LightSail-B on the bench
Blue Origin New Shepard after first landing
New Shepard test flight and booster landing
Suni Williams and Doug Hurley in Crew Dragon
More Images

Featured Video

MISSIONS: Dawn In The Asteroid Belt With Marc Rayman

Watch Now

Space in Images

Pretty pictures and
awe-inspiring science.

See More

Selfies to Space!

Take flight with a selfie on LightSail™ in 2016!

Send a Selfie Now

Connect With Us

Facebook! Twitter! Google+ and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!