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Mars Rover Finds Unusual Rocks at 'Home Plate'

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the get-the-umpire-a-new-telescope dept.

Mars 90

An anonymous reader writes "After several months of driving nearly a kilometer, the Mars Rover Spirit has reached the semicircular plateau dubbed 'Home Plate' in Gusev Crater and has unearthed a puzzle. Spirit first got a good view of Home Plate in late August from 'Husband Hill'. The layered appearance is unlike anything yet seen by the rovers."

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Late Breaking News: (5, Funny)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14708675)


Outrage and disgust swept through the community today as the Council of Elders confirmed the rumours that one of the mechanized invaders from the sinister blue planet third from our star has defiled one of our holiest landmarks.

Recently declassified vision-waves from the elite team of warriors dispatched to track the invader's progress clearly shows the horrible automaton stretching out its spindly claw towards the Tracks Of The Founder, a most sacred site for G'loshnaks and Z'treems alike.

K'Breel, Speaker for the Council, stressed yet again that there was no cause for alarm:
"I assure you, this assault upon our holy sites will not go unpunished. For descrecrating the most holy Tracks Of The Founder, a site that no one is even permitted to look upon, the disgusting inhabitants of the Evil Blue Planet have forefited any possibility of mercy. The brave warriors who reported this outrage are even now ritualistically puncturing their gelsacs for inadvertently gazing upon the holy site, and their ichor will not spill in vain!"
When asked if citizens who viewed the sacrilige via the declassified vision-wave would also be required to satisfy the honor of the Founder by ritualistic gelsac puncture, K'breel replied,
"No, the Council of Elders has decreed that a light scourging will suffice. If you have witnessed this horrible act via the declassified vision-wave, please report to your nearest purification center immediately.

YAY! :D (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14708748)

I had waited SO LONG for the next episode of this hilarious story! :)

Kudos to you.

Funny, but also well written (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709781)

Here, here.

To the parent: Despite the brevity and intended humour, that was still very well done. You have a concept, and an idea to base it on. Why not write a book?

Heck, if you're not into it, maybe a bunch of us can start one together. WikiBooks [wikibooks.org] is intended for textbooks, but a multi-author novella might do just as well.

Re:Late Breaking News: (0)

Alex P Keaton in da (882660) | more than 8 years ago | (#14708827)

Me too- I have also waited so long for this next installment of this awesome story!!! Seriously, you should gather them all together into book form, and then sell them! I mean, then you would have so much more time to hang out on slashdot, and maybe even get a few first posts!
How do you come up with these stories! They are RAD!!! I mean, I wish I had time to write stories like this, heck, I wish I had the talent too! Wow! Do you ever read these stories to the ladies?!?!? I bet that would get you some serious vaginal play!!!

Re:Late Breaking News: (-1, Redundant)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14708839)

Official Statement of the Unified Resistance Front of Mars (QKTLM):

Don't think that you can divert attention from your oppressive rule to the actions of the hideous members of the insidious blue planet. The entire G'een'v-Net is alive with the news of your massacre in Meridiani-kl'ni and of the heroic resistance of QKTLM martyrs in trying to prevent it. The spherules of many innocent Martians were shed yet again at your claw; when we take your life - and by Phobos, the day will be soon! - not even the dust devils shall mourn your grave.

K'tah nrglah tn hk'tah ginr'l Marstv'k qa!!
Laaq n'tl Marstv'k qa!!

Re:Late Breaking News: (-1, Offtopic)

tripmasterFIRSTPOSTm (954216) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709347)

i AM YOUR ALTER EGO! I get pussy, you get dick. I am smart. You are dum

Re:Late Breaking News: (1)

tolan-b (230077) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709366)

Wow, stalking someone on slashdot... Seriously mate, a life might be in order...

Re:Late Breaking News: (0, Offtopic)

WidescreenFreak (830043) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709574)

In fairness, that also decribes the person that he's (poorly) mocking. TMM for some reason seems to have some narcissitic need to get first post on a significant quantity of Slashdot's articles every weekday. Yet a detractor posts a single, criticizing post and is told that he needs a life. Slight contradiction there, don't you think?

Yes, yes, it's off topic. I have karma to burn. But just because this view might be unpopular doesn't mean that it's not correct. Then again, this *is* Slashdot.

Re:Late Breaking News: (1)

tolan-b (230077) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709622)

Sorry I guess I don't read enough /. to know TMM's posting habits ;)

The comment about stalking came from the fact that someone's obviously gone to the trouble of creating an account to shout inanities at him/her.

However in TMM's defence their original post was fairly entertaining, so it's not quite the same as your average "FP!!!!1" post is it?

Re:Late Breaking News: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14710975)

The fact that he set up a new account just to razzle someone says tons more than someone's ability to stay one click away from a web browser all day long.

Re:Late Breaking News: (1)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709402)

Interesting. You can't spell "dumb".

Re:Late Breaking News: (1)

freakmn (712872) | more than 8 years ago | (#14710803)

I would guess that the reason that he cannot spell dumb is that he has to rush to get the first post. Adding that extra letter at the end or using punctuation and grammar would slow him down, making him miss the deadline for the first post.

Re:Late Breaking News: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14711143)

YHBT

Welcome to the internet.

Re:Late Breaking News: (2, Interesting)

dreemernj (859414) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709463)

Maybe someday these can all be compiled onto a website...and that site will be posted as a story on /. ...and nobody will be able to read it...because the server will have died...

Re:Late Breaking News: (1)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709549)

Where can I read more of these in the series?

Re:Late Breaking News: (2, Informative)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14712027)

Google for it [google.com] :)

Re:Late Breaking News: (1)

Kolisar (665024) | more than 8 years ago | (#14710462)

Fortunately for us, like most aliens in the original StarTrek, they speak English. Now that we know of their plans we can prepare for the eventual attack!

That's no unusual rock! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14708850)

That's no unusual rock at home plate, it's Sammy Sosa. It seems only the Martian League would sign him.

Keeps going, and going, and going... (3, Insightful)

salemnic (244944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14708934)

I'm simply amazed that this thing keeps moving. What was the original life expectancy? 3 months? How longs has it been going now? 2 years?

Unbelievable.

Yay engineers! Yay Science! Yay School!

s

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (3, Funny)

a803redman (870583) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709006)

Yet I can't keep my car running for more than a few weeks. Damn you Honda!!!

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (3, Insightful)

INeededALogin (771371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709234)

Simply amazing only because they advertised the bare minimum/worst case scenario as the life expectancy. Honestly, NASA couldn't chance another failure so they played it safe.

This is a machine... a very well built one. The fact that both are running just shows that many of the NASA assumptions were incorrect, such as how well a machine would function on the surface, the effects of the varying temperature on components and the overall dependability of a machine.

We should be thinking of the 3 months number as nothing more than a warranty. The engineers(whoever they were) gave a conservative number that these things would run for 3 months. Just as car makers give me a 2-3 year warranty, I still expect my car to work well after that warranty is up.

Anyways, it is amazing, but demonstrates a problem with goverment research projects and the importance of a tangible success/failure as opposed to just saying, it will run until it stops and we will collect as much data as possible. This is also the same problem with Hubble. While Hubble gives us tons of useful scientific research, it is a project without an end and without a tangible success to be stamp on a piece of paper to justify all those tax payers money. (Man... where did this rant come from:-/)

In all fairness (4, Informative)

edremy (36408) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709918)

If you read Squyres' book, he knew that 90 days was totally doable, but wasn't sure about much longer. The original plan was for 30 days, but he figured they couldn't get any science at all in that short a time and they needed funding for at least 90. Dust buildup on the solar panels was going to cripple the rovers quickly since they couldn't figure out a good way to clean the panels.

They never expected the Martians to clean the panels off periodically. (Dust devils, actually) Check out some of the recent photos- the panels are amazingly clean, far better than they ever hoped. Even so, the rovers aren't in good shape- Spirit has no teeth left on the RAT and has several steering motors with issues, Opportunity has major problems with it's robotic arm and how the mini-TES is still working without nighttime heat is unknown.

Re:In all fairness (1)

HolyCrapSCOsux (700114) | more than 8 years ago | (#14710433)

I think the martians periodically repair them. But not too well as that would rouse our suspicions...

Define issues with steering motors (1)

technoextreme (885694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14711820)

They never expected the Martians to clean the panels off periodically. (Dust devils, actually) Check out some of the recent photos- the panels are amazingly clean, far better than they ever hoped. Even so, the rovers aren't in good shape- Spirit has no teeth left on the RAT and has several steering motors with issues, Opportunity has major problems with it's robotic arm and how the mini-TES is still working without nighttime heat is unknown.

Huh???? Several of it's motors have steering issues. That only leaves one good motor. Are they spasming in fits or are they just completely gone.

Re:Define issues with steering motors (2, Informative)

edremy (36408) | more than 8 years ago | (#14713296)

They're having fits. Since the rovers can steer every wheel this can be overcome. (Ditto 6 wheel drive: when they started losing a front wheel drive motor when climbing Husband Hill they were able to drive in reverse using only 5 drive wheels and dragging the other.) See for example the February 6 update on Spirit

Spirit completed two diagnostic tests of the dynamic brakes on sol 735 (Jan. 27, 2006) after the team detected a dynamic brake fault associated with the left-front and right-rear steering actuators on Sol 733. The tests were copies of tests that were run after a similar anomaly on sol 265 for Spirit. Also on sol 735, the rover performed a small wheel wiggle after its drive to test the dynamic brakes. The wheel wiggle steered the wheels slightly, then steered them straight. No dynamic brake warnings were observed. The intermittent behavior of the relay status that controls the dynamic brakes, as well as the results of the diagnostic activities, are consistent with the behavior observed after the sol 265 anomaly. The team continued with the same resolution, which was to instruct the rover to ignore the dynamic brake error status. Driving has continued with normal steering function.

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14710947)

Assuming the 3 months is a real engineering-type number and not just pulled out of someone's ass, it probably represents something like "Mean Time To Failure" (MTTF). That's an estimate of the probability a system will complete it's mission successfully (and to know what it really means, you'd have to know the actual definition of "mission" used).

Crudely, the number would mean that if you launched several thousand Mars rovers, the average lifetime over all the units would be about 3 months. Some would crash land, some would be DOA, some would break or wear out, some would last for years. That's pretty much the experience with launching probes to Mars anyway. When you only have one or two units, it makes more sense to talk about probabilities than average lifetimes, and 3 months is probably someone's estimate of a reasonably high probability at reasonably high certainty. On the contrary, it shows that NASA's assumptions were very much correct, because they met and exceeded the mission goals. These weren't designed with planned obsolescence in mind like some consumer goods and it's unlikely they'd fail at the warranty expiration plus a few days.

The life expectancy is low because rocket launch and re-entry are about the most severe environments you can expose equipment to - in terms of vibration, acceleration, temperature/thermal shock/thermal cycling, plus a lot of things can go wrong. Even if the launch and landing go perfectly, you've stressed the equipment severely, making early failure more likely (even solid state stuff is prone to mechanical failure when solder joints or wires break). The actual surface environment, while severe, shouldn't be a big factor because they knew what it would be and could design for it. Also, where possible the components have been screened to weed out early-life failures before launch, and the design has been thoroughly tested.

None of that takes away from the fact that the people who design and build these things (or things like Voyager, or even Apollo and the Shuttles) do incredible work.

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (1)

PetiePooo (606423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14711479)

You forgot to mention the unexpected dust-devil cleaning action on the solar cells. They were originally expecting that the cells would be so coated with dust after a few months that they wouldn't produce enough power for the unit to move. One erroneous assumption that worked out in their favor!

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 8 years ago | (#14714919)

The thing is, unlike your car, there were a lot of unknowns. Also, the rovers are functioning without any maintenance in an environment that wasn't well known. Your car will at least get regular oil and filter changes.

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (1)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709283)

Yay engineers! Yay Science! Yay School!


Two hours later they then received the following transmission from the rover computer:

All these worlds are yours, except Mars.
Attempt no colonies there.

Oh, and don't bother with those stones. There really isn't anything exceptional beneath them. No sir. Absolutely not. Now bugger off this planet.

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (1)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709561)

Now bugger off this planet.

Interesting. I can only guess that to the Rovers our extra-planetary network connection counts as us being "on" Mars.

That makes sense because to a robot its very consciousness is embodied within its internal network of parts. To them we probably seem like one massive electronic consciousness via the Internet. Could they even comprehend that in us the "meat" is doing the thinking?

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (1)

rhendershot (46429) | more than 8 years ago | (#14711232)

>>the "meat" is doing the thinking

not bloody-well likely....

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (1)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 8 years ago | (#14718733)

Increase your geek cred: http://www.terrybisson.com/meat.html [terrybisson.com]

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (1)

rhendershot (46429) | more than 8 years ago | (#14724157)

lol. Thanks. It'd been awhile since I'd thought of that one.

>>...Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing...

How inimatabley poignant. "Absolute power..." no matter what the container, still corrupts.

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709796)

Full-on! It surely is great to see devices like this serving not only multiple purposes, but designed so well that they perform their duties well long after their life expectancy. Can of these space vehicles can be designed in such a way as to have life after death? Like, long long life?

And automated mass-production?

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (3, Interesting)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | more than 8 years ago | (#14710014)

Actually, I think they just dramatically underestimated their performance and life cycle.

Lets face it, Nasa hasn't had a lot of success as of late. If they sent a couple of rovers to Mars and suggested they would last 3 years, and then they died 2 days into the mission, it would be egg on Nasa's face. Instead, they said the rovers had a 3 month life expectancy, and everyone is slapping Nasa on the back after 2 years into the mission. I think Nasa purposely make the 3 months comment just to reap the benefits of finally having a successful mission to mars.

Nasa over designs things, so I was dubious when they said the Mars rovers would only last 3 months. Barring any significant dust or wind storms, there is no reason why the rovers should not have lasted this long if they are solar powered and reasonably well engineered.

What is unbelievable is that Nasa designed something that didn't f*ck up in the first 3 months, or even on landing. But I would take the whole "only designed for a 3 month mission" with a big spoon full of sugar, internally the rovers were probably designed to last a decade. Your car would last a century if some company put 800+ million into creating it, I would expect the same from a couple of 400 million dollar platforms with wheels on them. Remember, the mars rovers we over budget and delayed, so lowering expectations is Nasa's typical method for covering up budget overruns and delays. Once something demonstrates apparently unexpected success, everybody forgets about the price tag.

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14711777)

I think you're being a bit over-critical. You try designing something given a drastically different environment than we normally design things for, you can't fully test it in the environment, AND you have limited weight, size, etc. This isn't an easy job and shooting for lasting long enough to get the science done isn't such a dumb idea.

Why are you so critical of NASA? Is there some other space agency that's been wildly sucessful that makes NASA look foolish? Seems to me the britsh Beagle smashed into the surface of Mars and was never heard from again. The Soviet Union has had a large number of unsuccessfull Mars missions as well.

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (3, Informative)

vsprintf (579676) | more than 8 years ago | (#14712672)

Instead, they said the rovers had a 3 month life expectancy, and everyone is slapping Nasa on the back after 2 years into the mission. I think Nasa purposely make the 3 months comment just to reap the benefits of finally having a successful mission to mars.

Then you would be wrong. The 3-month designed life expectancy is the period it takes to accomplish the mission's primary goals. If the primary goals are accomplished, the mission is a success, if not it is considered a failure. Anything after that is gravy. Generally, mission operations are initially approved/funded only for the designed life expectancy, and any operations after that requires additional approval and funding. Try to remember that the satellite in space or a rover on another planet is only a part of a mission's costs.

Barring any significant dust or wind storms, there is no reason why the rovers should not have lasted this long if they are solar powered and reasonably well engineered.

Stuff happens. Like when they unexpectedly found what appeared to be saline mud under the rover wheels that certainly weren't designed for it. Supposedly, the Titanic was "reasonably well engineered", and we had far more experience with ship building at the time than we do now with building semi-autonomous exploration vehicles for other planets.

What is unbelievable is that Nasa designed something that didn't f*ck up in the first 3 months, or even on landing.

Over twenty years ago, NASA launched a satellite with a 3-year mission. There have been 13 points of failure, but thanks to built in redundancy, some clever engineers, and the ability to reprogram (for lack of a better term) the craft, it is still doing its job. Some years back NASA sent up a satellite with an experimental sensor and a 1-year maximum mission. Due to scientific interest in the data being returned, it is still flying after more than 5 years although it is out of fuel. First, you claim NASA over-engineered the rovers and then claim that NASA can't engineer anything in the first place.

Your car would last a century if some company put 800+ million into creating it, I would expect the same from a couple of 400 million dollar platforms with wheels on them.

The actual cost of the vehicle is a small part of the mission cost. The satellite I just mentioned was built for under $500,000, while the cost of the mission has been much greater. Royal Caribbean is building a cruise ship for over a billion dollars. Even with people to service and repair it, I doubt it will still be sailing cruises in 100 years (and that doesn't include operations costs as long as we're comparing cruise ships to Mars rovers).

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14713200)

Nasa over designs things, so I was dubious when they said the Mars rovers would only last 3 months. Barring any significant dust or wind storms, there is no reason why the rovers should not have lasted this long if they are solar powered and reasonably well engineered.
Of course it's the solar power that's the issue - because they expected the panels to covered in dust by now. The dust devils that cleaned them were totally unexpected.
What is unbelievable is that Nasa designed something that didn't f*ck up in the first 3 months, or even on landing.
Given NASA's track record over the last few decades - it's not unbelievable at all. A little out of the ordinary pherhaps, but not unusual.
Remember, the mars rovers we over budget and delayed, so lowering expectations is Nasa's typical method for covering up budget overruns and delays.
Right. Then the 90 day life expectation, that has been with the project from Day One, is nothing but FUD.

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 8 years ago | (#14710303)

Yes, I'm actually surprised its solar panels doesn't collect dust over time. This was brought up as almost a given early on. Did it somehow turn out this wasn't an issue after all?

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (1)

psgalbraith (200580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14710554)

I'm actually surprised its solar panels doesn't collect dust over time.

I guess the option package that had the wipers was just too expensive.

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (1)

jsac (71558) | more than 8 years ago | (#14710631)

It does collect dust over time. But that dust is blown away by Martian dust devils every so often.

Re:Keeps going, and going, and going... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14711828)

Frankly, they're just lucky. Most engineers, like most computer programmers, are idiots.

Those martian rovers are fragile as hell and poorly designed. They just got lucky this time. Look at how many failures they have had, they were just being conservative with the numbers because they know they suck so bad.

that's the oldest trick in the book (1)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | more than 8 years ago | (#14712419)

it's a reversal of Mr. Scott's (rest in peace) technique. give the captain a repair scheduled inflated by 3X, fix in the regular time and presto... you're a miracle maker.

nasa just did the oposite. tell the public the rovers are expected to last only 3 months. if they live 9 months or more... presto. they're miracle makers.

Just concrete... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14708939)

Looks like a concrete footer buried in the dirt. Isn't this where Donald Trump supposed to be opening his new Galaxy Casino?

Re:Just concrete... (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709043)

It's amazing how earthlike [planetary.org] Mars often appears. This site should produce some great science. Home Plate looks more like Meridiani than Gusev.

That's because it's being a faked... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14711804)

... just like the moon landings. Duh.

I mean, c'mon, everyone knows that cosmic radiation and other scientific sounding stuff would have fried its circuitry and prevented broadcasts back from the planet.

Those pics are from a sealed off area in the Nevada desert.

Re: (Not) Just concrete... Hoffa? (1)

SurryMt (773354) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709161)

Hard to imagine, isn't it???

At home plate... (5, Funny)

mcsestretch (926118) | more than 8 years ago | (#14708980)

Next up, the rover will extend its probe into home plate. If rebuffed at third base, the rover will revert back to trying to get under home plate's sweater.

/So sorry.
//Couldn't resist.
///Slashies are fun.

Re:At home plate... (1)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709712)

Last time I checked home plate wasn't covered by a sweater. Way to fark the girl's belly button though.

Re:At home plate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14711778)

Now what did I tell you guys?! Don't leave the kitchen door open like that or some Farker is going to wander in here and slash the place up.

/You Insensitive Clod
//We don't use slashies on slashdot (oddly enough)
///slashies *are* fun

This is easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14709009)

Way too easy. It's a dioritic feldspar-porphyr. Can I have a job now, NASA?

Re:This is easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14709061)

Nice job Einstein. Next time show your work.

Re: This is easy (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709415)

> Way too easy. It's a dioritic feldspar-porphyr. Can I have a job now, NASA?

You still have to pass the "It's Just A Theory" social service exam.

Nah, just claim... (1)

kclittle (625128) | more than 8 years ago | (#14711364)

... that you graduated from some mediocre university in Texas, you'll get in.

Re:Nah, just claim... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14711718)

The flaw in your plan is that there *are* no mediocre universities in Texas! Only good universities, and Texas A&M.

Re:This is easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14710158)

Way too easy. It's a dioritic feldspar-porphyr. Can I have a job now, NASA?

But can you convert standard to metric?

Insensitive Clod! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14709046)

has unearthed a puzzle

That's unmarsed a puzzle. Typical terran bias.

Re:Insensitive Clod! (1)

grimJester (890090) | more than 8 years ago | (#14710607)

What do you expect with the humans controlling both the media and the military-industrial complex.

The word for earth (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14710970)

It's also Terran bias to use the Terran name of the planet. I thought the native name of each planet was the word for "soil" in the language of a political superpower on that planet. What's the word for soil in a major Martian tongue?

Re:The word for earth (1)

whitehatlurker (867714) | more than 8 years ago | (#14712007)

The name for the fourth planet is "Barsoom". Geeze, read a book! [erblist.com]

[grin - look, it's all meant in fun]

Dang, so that's where I left my fusion reactor (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709103)

It fell out when I wasn't watching where I was going around Deimos, and I had to limp home on solar sails.

Um, any chance they can return it to me any time soon? Those things are real expensive ...

Black Monolith? (1)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709121)

Humming "Ligeti [visual-memory.co.uk] ?"

BTW: Did you ever notice that HAL has one eye - like the cyclops in Homer's Odyssey?

Moon Rovers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14709278)

I don't suppose its possible to build about a couple dozen of these little guys and put them to work on the moon is it? They could search some interesting areas of the moon for a few years and the data collected could help NASA determine where to land people for retrieval of rock specimens and further scientific research.

What a relief! (3, Funny)

MrFlibbs (945469) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709285)

Just imagine if they'd found a set of wickets instead of home plate? Then we'd all be in danger from planet Krikkit!

Cricket? (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709904)

Then the Americans at NASA would never have any HOPE of understanding what they found.

Re:What a relief! (1)

viashno (950157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14710049)

next thing we'd know, all of the dolphins would be leaving and our planet would be destroyed for an intergalactic highway.

Sediment? (3, Interesting)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709340)

I'm no geologist, by those layered rocks look like some kind of sendiment formation to me. Which would make sense if mars had water bodies of some kind.

Then again they could just be volcanic rocks.

Can any of Slashdot's resident geologists solve this mystery in three of less posts?

Re:Sediment? (2, Interesting)

DisownedSky (905171) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709727)

I'm not a geologist either, althoug I have been following the discussion at Unmanned Spaceflight [unmannedspaceflight.com] . There are as many hypotheses as hypothesizers. When you have that many thin layers with significant cross-lamination, then it seems to me to point to deposition by wind or water. It can't just be slabs of lava. Of course, everyone is hoping that water will be the answer.

In some of the images from late last week [nasa.gov] , there appears to be a spherule, not unlike the ones foundon the other side of the planet by Opportunity. The ones Opportunity found are mostly made of hematite and are thought to be associated with liquid water.

Re:Sediment? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14722494)

In some of the images from late last week, there appears to be a spherule, not unlike the ones found on the other side of the planet by Opportunity.

I think Spirit has merely lost its marbles.
     

Re:Sediment? (0, Troll)

tgd (2822) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709816)

I'm no oncologist, but that little squishy thing I just sneezed out of my nose looks like a dislodged brain tumor.

Can any resident Slashdot oncologists solve this mystery?

Re:Sediment? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14710552)

They are sedimentary layers of some kind -- either volcanically deposited (e.g., like an ash fall) or sediment deposited by fluids (air or water). Once they get the instruments up against the outcrop and get some composition data, it should help narrow the possibilities.

The structure looks somewhat like the sediments that have been observed by Opportunity at Meridiani, sans "blueberries" (hematite concretions), though one possible blueberry has turned up (e.g., the far left of this image [nasa.gov] ), and there might be more upon closer examination. There are examples of what appears to be cross bedding (cross-cutting laminations indicating ripples or dunes in cross section -- some are visible in the above image), and there are broader vertical composition variations, judging by variations in bedding character and colour.

The cross bedding is especially important, because although there have been examples reported at the Opportunity sites, they aren't 100% convincing. The ones here already look unambiguous. Furthermore, the geometry of cross beds is specific to the current/wave regime and the nature of the fluid carrying the sediment. They can still occur in volcanic settings, but either way, they can provide quite a bit of information about the process responsible.

I'm going way out on a ledge here, but ... damn, those cross beds look rather similar to something geologists on Earth call "hummocky cross stratification" (or HCS for short). It is characteristic of combined flow -- oscillatory and unidirectional -- which is in turn characteristic of storm waves in oceans or large lakes, though the process by which HCS forms is not very well understood. The crossbeds don't look particularly aeolian (wind-deposited).

Unfortunately, I suspect such an interpretation would be much more debatable on Mars. I'm not sure what effect lower gravity and different atmospheric density has on the types of cross bedding that forms. I think there is some experimental and computational modelling for Martian conditions, but I'm not familiar with it.

Still, the deposit certainly isn't a lava flow.

My guess: it is a sedimentary deposit, and I'm also guessing it is stratigraphically above what is found on most of the Gusev plain. It might represent a relict that used to fill much of the basin and lapped onto the Columbia Hills, but has been eroded away over most of the surrounding area. If so, "Home Plate" might be the "lake deposits" people were expecting to find at Gusev from the start.

For a geologist this outcrop is very exciting stuff. And to think that if the rovers only met their standard 90-day lifetime, we would never have seen it!

Yes, but... (0, Redundant)

SheeEttin (899897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14710972)

Yes, but they'd all be modded down. (And this is the fourth post, so I'm disqualified.)

Re:Sediment? (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 8 years ago | (#14715018)

The layered rock looks just like slate.

Looks like sedimentary rock to me. (4, Interesting)

TheZorch (925979) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709580)

ObsessiveMathsFreak has it right. That is fossilized sedimentary rock. You can find it all over places like China where several feathered dinosaurs were found recently directly linking dinos with birds.

Anyway, if there is at all a chance of proving that Mars might have once harbored life THIS IS THE PLACE to look. Because its within sedimentary rock that you find the greatest proliferation of fossils. Any self-respecting paleo-geek can tell you that.

Re:Looks like sedimentary rock to me. (5, Interesting)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709978)

I disagree. While the rocks do have the appearance of a striated laminate, there are enough layer thickness inconsistences visible over very short distances that this may not be the case. You can get similar visible features from magma and volcanic flows. Also, some very serious uplift and tilting has occurred (the layers are visible along a horizontal surface) At this point, it's difficult to even pinpoint it down to which of the three major rock types it is (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic) without chemical and microscopic analysis. You certainly can't tell from a series of black and white pictures. Which is exactly why there's debate about this among even the experts.

Re:Looks like sedimentary rock to me. (1)

dilvish_the_damned (167205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14711051)

Looks strikingly similar to the sedimentary rock I used to drill in southeast Alaska when I was blowing up rock for a living. It looks just like that, only in color and with more water.

Re:Looks like sedimentary rock to me. (2, Funny)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 8 years ago | (#14711906)

Yes, they found sedimentary rock. This is because the mars rovers are on the same soundstage as the lunar missions. They've just run into the Los Angeles River.

Next, they'll find a fossilized human tooth.

Re:Looks like sedimentary rock to me. (1)

chord.wav (599850) | more than 8 years ago | (#14715085)

I must say I disagree with you but you have a good point. IMHO, that is, obviously, as well as in China, ancient-feathered dinosaur's poo. In this case, we would be talking about martian-ancient-feathered dinosaurs's poo of course. No bird, no matter how ancient, can migrate that far. We all know that.

Jimmy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14710107)

Maybe these things can find Jimmy Hoffa. For those who don't remember, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Hoffa [wikipedia.org]

What if...? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14710560)

This may only be a nifty geological find but what if...

What if the rovers did come across something which was undeniably manufactured. Say the rovers happened upon a rock with a sheet of bent and rusted steel laying against it. What if the robot caught a picture of what would look like a circuit board or some motorized assembly. What then? Would we be seeing pictures of it right away? In a day? In a month? In a year?

What if the evidence began stacking up that there had been a civilization on Mars but it wiped itself out because its politicians were too stubborn and bull-headed to admit when they've royally screwed up. The compounded mistakes upon mistakes upon denials upon coverups resulted in a nuclear-type holocaust which decimated the entire plant. Would we be shown that material?

Undoubtedly the most interesting of finds from the two faithful rovers will never be known to the vast majority of us sitting here gawking at some Martian shale.

Re:What if...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14711006)

What I would give to be sitting in that room right now...

Re:What if...? (1)

arabagast (462679) | more than 8 years ago | (#14711585)

ah, where is the "mod paranoid" option when one needs it.. :)

Re:What if...? (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 8 years ago | (#14713641)

If you had a big enough dish, you could probobly listen to, capture and decode the raw images from mars yourself (and because they are created by NASA, there is no copyright issues involved)

Re:What if...? (2, Interesting)

Lijemo (740145) | more than 8 years ago | (#14714883)

I once herd a NASA scientist give a response to such views.

His point was this: Like any other agency, NASA's biggest problem is the limited funding. If they released pictures that indicated something created by intelligent beings and asked to investigate further, the money would pour in. Thus they would have NO motiviation to keep such a find secret, and EVERY motivation to share it. Such a find would end their finantial difficulties for a very long time.

(After all, it's not like some unauthorized person is going to rush to the archaeological site to loot it or mess it up...)

Re:What if...? (1)

mswope (242988) | more than 8 years ago | (#14733646)

"What if the rovers did come across something which was undeniably manufactured. "Say the rovers happened upon a rock with a sheet of bent and rusted steel laying "against it. What if the robot caught a picture of what would look like a circuit "board or some motorized assembly. What then? Would we be seeing pictures of it "right away? In a day? In a month? In a year?"

We found BEAGLE II!!!!!!

Pointy thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14710866)

So whats the pointy thing protruding above the horizon in the main photo in the linked article here:

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/11273146/ [msn.com]

Re:Pointy thing (1)

jericho4.0 (565125) | more than 8 years ago | (#14711292)

No idea, and it doesn't look much like any rock formation I've seen.

Here's the bigger picture [nasa.gov]

Re:Pointy thing (1)

DisownedSky (905171) | more than 8 years ago | (#14717957)

It looks like one of those ventifacts you see all over this jumbled up formation [flickr.com] . Eons of wind erosion can result in weird shapes sticking out, which look even stranger through a wide angle lens.

Home Plate? (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 8 years ago | (#14713186)

From TFA:
Crumpler said deliberations within the team about what they are viewing "have been the closest thing to passionate debate that I have seen yet."

"It has a shape when seen from above that is reminiscent of a playa ..."
Don't hate..

'Home Plate' is a buried star gate! (1)

js_sms (683599) | more than 8 years ago | (#14717747)

'Home Plate' is a buried star gate!
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