Stuck Spirit finds more water clues

A robot rover that became trapped in martian soil has found signs of running water right under its nose, NASA has revealed. Spirit, which has spent more than six years exploring Mars, discovered evidence that melted snow has been trickling through the ground fairly recently.

Artist's impression of a rover on Mars
Artist’s impression of a rover on Mars

The rover became trapped like a car in sand last November at a site called Troy after two of its six wheels stopped working.

But the space agency continued to use it as a fixed laboratory before it lost power as winter descended and went into hibernation mode.

Different levels, or strata, of soil close to the surface led the NASA rover team to believe that water seeped into the ground from frost or snow.

It then is thought to have penetrated deeper into the sand, carrying a mix of water-soluble minerals with it.

The flow of water may have happened when Mars was tilted further on its axis and conditions were warmer, according to the scientists’ report in the Journal of Geophysical Research. See more details in the NASA release.

In 2007, Spirit accidentally made another important find about water and the possible existence once of life on Mars when its wonky wheel churned up silica mineral deposits.

Spirit and its sister rover Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004 on what were intended to be 90-day missions.

Incredibly they carried on working for years and Opportunity is currently trundling towards a giant crater, Endeavour, on the opposite side of Mars to Spirit.

• Discover space for yourself and do fun science with a telescope. Here is Skymania’s advice on how to choose a telescope. We also have a guide to the different types of telescope available. Check out our monthly sky guide too!

©PAUL SUTHERLAND, Skymania.com

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Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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