Synthesis Paper The Geology Of Martian

Rocks Essay, Research Paper

On July 4, 1997 the Mars Pathfinder finally came to rest after ninety minutes of bouncing around on the Martian surface. The purpose of the mission was to explore the Martian surface, collect and analyze the chemical makeup of Martian rocks, and test the new technology and software put into this mission. Scientists back on Earth hoped to advance their knowledge of the Martian surface and from that data, reconstruct past surface features. Using this important data, scientists can determine the habitat of Mars. Also, technologists hoped to advance their knowledge on new software and electronics to be used for future space exploration. All the time and effort put into this mission has paid off because the mission was a success. The Pathfinder successfully carried out all of its duties. It collected various rocks, analyzed the geological structure of the rock, recorded the data and that data was sent to the scientists back on Earth. Many new facts were uncovered about the Martian surface; such as water laid in masses all over the surface, volcanoes were present and other significant features. Studying the geological traits of the Martian rocks, progression of technology is indicated, the past geological features of Mars can be postulated by scientists, and how this new technology/geological knowledge can further the future of mankind.

Presented in Mechanical Engineering entitled Roving over Mars, by Donald Bickler, is the Mars mission from the technological view. Much time and effort was put into developing this advanced technology. The Pathfinder was equipped with the latest technology so that it will fulfill its purpose. The engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) took into account all the physical features of Mars so that the Pathfinder does not encounter any problems. Problems that the team perceived were the surface s features and temperature (Bickler). The team equipped the Pathfinder with a six-wheeled base, spider legged type. With a base of seventy-nine millimeters combined with the wheels, that enabled the Pathfinder to explore the Martian surface with ease. The team also took into account the below freezing temperature of Mars, so they implemented the Pathfinder with a high-tech aerogel-insulated, fiber reinforced-plastic composite body heated by three radioisotope-heating units. This prevented the Pathfinder s components from freezing when the temperature dropped down to negative seventy-three degrees Celsius, even though this new device was designed to take temperatures up to negative one-hundred degrees Celsius (Kasting, Squyres). Most components required separate heating units to ensure total protection in the case of a disaster. Significant other devices included the Imager for Mars Pathfinder Camera (IMP), the eye of the Pathfinder and the eye for scientists into Mars past and present. The Alpha Proton X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) was used in analyzing the Martian rock samples (Bell). With the new technology put into effect, the Pathfinder was able to carry out all of its tasks which were to probe the Martian surface, collect and analyze rock samples. The devices aboard the Pathfinder enabled scientists to analyze, record the data and send the information back to Earth, without scientist physically being on Mars. This is the biggest accomplishment to date for mankind. This new technology will be helpful for future missions not just to Mars, but also to other planets waiting to be studied and maybe even discovered.

None the less, the geological view of the Mars mission was perceived in: Mars Pathfinder (Space Probe), written by Jim Bell, and the article Possible Glimpse of Earth-like Geology in Mars. Richard A. Kerr. One difficulty encountered in interpreting the Pathfinder s data was that the rocks were coated with fine red dust. Volcanic rocks are fine-grained or glassy, sedimentary rocks tend to be layered, and rocks formed by an impact are commonly breccias, composed of angular fragments. Rock shape is sometimes related to texture, because the way a rock breaks into smaller pieces usually reflects its internal features (Kerr). Most of the rocks collected and analyzed by the Pathfinder were unbroken, which told scientist that they were molded and shaped by prevailing winds and erosion. Presence of vesicles indicated some of the rocks were volcanic. Abrasions on the samples concluded to scientists that there was, or still is, wind present on Mars (Bell). One group of rocks, that excited the Pathfinder scientists soon after landing, had a bright pink color and tabular shape to it. These rocks raised hopes of identifying sedimentary rocks. A rough chronology for rocks at the landing site has been proposed based on the observed spectral features. The oldest rocks at the site were the large, rounded boulders with maroon coatings, deposited by floods and likely stained by reactions with liquid water (Bell). Scientist have a firm belief, about two billion years ago, based on the density of crater samples, the landing site of the Pathfinder was flat a area in the middle of a plain due to a massive flood. This fact can be concluded from the Image for Mars Pathfinder camera (IMP). Shots of the landing site included stacks and piles of pebbles, appeared as if rushing water had acted upon, causing them to pile up. Other rocks consisted of volcanic rock fragments that have been eroded and deposited by wind, water or impacts, but without much chemical modification. Another major geological finding was that wind had been an extremely dominant process on the part of Mars that the Pathfinder had landed. Dunes, ripples, moats, wind tail, and flutes suggest that wind erosion had been the only major agent of change at the landing site. The first rock sample found, named Barnacle Bill composed of silica, rose scientists to their feet. Silica thought only to be found only on Earth rose the question, is there life on Mars? Using the Alpha proton X-Ray spectrometer, the Pathfinder analyzed Barnacle Bill and discovered silica present which also have scientist thinking that there may have been tectonic plates, as we have on Earth, in the past of Mars (Kasting, Squyre). From the new data, there is without a doubt that the Mars mission was a total success. Scientists not only discovered that Mars had and still has Earth like geology, but also life maybe on Mars. From this information, scientist reconstructed the past geological features of Mars, and concluded the similarity to that of Earth s and also the habitability. Employing the new technology on the Martian surface enabled scientists to study the geology of Martian rocks. From the new data they constructed the past geological features of Mars will help Earth as a whole, in future space exploration and maybe one day help prolong the life span of the human race.

Touching on the last subject, putting all this technological and geological information together, engineers and scientists can work together in making new and more advanced ways of space exploration; this may one day save the human race. Knowing the past of our neighboring planets is useful only to us, Earth. Using this new knowledge of Mars, maybe astronauts one-day can set foot on Mars or even live on Mars equipped with the right tools and devices. First learning how to get there, what new devices to use, and then putting them into effect to study the land, helps us know what and how to adapt to the land in order to survive. Earth is a planet just like the rest of the planets out space. There are billions of unexplored galaxies and planets. Us humans do not know for a fact that we are the only life in space. We have no way of knowing unless we go out and explore what has been given to us. With new knowledge we can step to the next level. Earth being just a planet can explode or the sun can die out tomorrow without warning and then what we would do? Where would we live? How would we survive without the sun? These are questions that can start being answered by using this new technology along with new information of Mars.

In conclusion, critiquing all the information provided in the articles; studying the geological traits of Martian rocks, technological progression is displayed through the usage of the latest software and hardware. This new technology can be used for future space and planet exploration. Also the engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory will improve the hardware and software, to adapt to the space environment. Scientists concluded that past geological features of Mars included volcanoes once existed, water masses, and other major land features found on Earth. Wind was a major factor in constructing Mars s surface to what it is now. I think that it is essential to learn about our neighboring planets, because one day when Earth is depleted of its natural resources, we might need to immigrate to another planet. We need to start with basic studying of the geology of a planet and then further explore if the ability to live on the planet is possible or not. Utilizing this new technology/geological knowledge can further the future of mankind. Using distinct new data, scientists can conclude how habitable the land of Mars and other planet surfaces are. Scientists have already concluded that Earth one day will be no more, because the sun is said to die within the next billion years. That might sound a long time away and it may not relate to us because we will not be here by then, but future generations will be. They also deserve to live, reproduce, and enjoy life to its fullest.

Works Cited

Bell, Jim. MARS Pathfinder (Space Probe) . Sky & Telescope96(1998): 36-44.

Technological Breakthrough: The Mars Pathfinder. Mars Pathfinder Science

Objectives. Online. 1997.

Bickler, Donald. Roving over Mars. Mechenical Engineer85(1998): N/A. 1997

Kerr, Richard A. Possible Glimpse of Earthlike geology in Mars rock Science227(1998): 638-40. 1997.

Squyres, Steven, Kasting, J. Early Mars: How warm and how wet? Science265(1998): 744-50. 1998.


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