Abstract

The Spirit rover completed a 2.5 km traverse across gently sloping plains on the floor of Gusev crater from its location on the outer rim of Bonneville crater to the lower slopes of the Columbia Hills, Mars. Using the Athena suite of instruments in a transect approach, a systematic series of overlapping panoramic mosaics, remote sensing observations, surface analyses, and trenching operations documented the lateral variations in landforms, geologic materials, and chemistry of the surface throughout the traverse, demonstrating the ability to apply the techniques of field geology by remote rover operations. Textures and shapes of rocks within the plains are consistent with derivation from impact excavation and mixing of the upper few meters of basaltic lavas. The contact between surrounding plains and crater ejecta is generally abrupt and marked by increases in clast abundance and decimeter-scale steps in relief. Basaltic materials of the plains overlie less indurated and more altered rock types at a time-stratigraphic contact between the plains and Columbia Hills that occurs over a distance of one to two meters. This implies that regional geologic contacts are well preserved and that Earth-like field geologic mapping will be possible on Mars despite eons of overturn by small impacts.

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