Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Water alteration of rocks and soils on Mars at the Spirit rover site in Gusev crater

Abstract

Gusev crater was selected as the landing site for the Spirit rover because of the possibility that it once held a lake. Thus one of the rover's tasks was to search for evidence of lake sediments1. However, the plains at the landing site were found to be covered by a regolith composed of olivine-rich basaltic rock and windblown ‘global’ dust2. The analyses of three rock interiors exposed by the rock abrasion tool showed that they are similar to one another, consistent with having originated from a common lava flow3,4,5,6,7,8. Here we report the investigation of soils, rock coatings and rock interiors by the Spirit rover from sol (martian day) 1 to sol 156, from its landing site to the base of the Columbia hills. The physical and chemical characteristics of the materials analysed provide evidence for limited but unequivocal interaction between water and the volcanic rocks of the Gusev plains. This evidence includes the softness of rock interiors that contain anomalously high concentrations of sulphur, chlorine and bromine relative to terrestrial basalts and martian meteorites9; sulphur, chlorine and ferric iron enrichments in multilayer coatings on the light-toned rock Mazatzal; high bromine concentration in filled vugs and veins within the plains basalts; positive correlations between magnesium, sulphur and other salt components in trench soils; and decoupling of sulphur, chlorine and bromine concentrations in trench soils compared to Gusev surface soils, indicating chemical mobility and separation.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Rock Mazatzal and its coatings.
Figure 2: Chemistry and mineralogy of Mazatzal and coatings.
Figure 3: Concentrations of Mg, Al, Cl and Br versus S in rocks and soils.

References

  1. 1

    Squyres, S. W. et al. Athena Mars rover science investigation. J. Geophys. Res. 108(E12), 8062, doi:10.1029/2003JE002121 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Squyres, S. W. et al. The Spirit Rover's Athena science investigation at Gusev Crater, Mars. Science 305, 794–799 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Bell, J. F. III et al. Pancam multispectral imaging results from the Spirit Rover at Gusev Crater. Science 305, 800–806 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Herkenhoff, K. E. et al. Texture of the soils and rocks at Gusev Crater from Spirit's microscopic imager. Science 305, 824–826 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Gellert, R. et al. Chemistry of rocks and soils in Gusev Crater from the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer. Science 305, 829–832 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Morris, R. V. et al. Mineralogy at Gusev Crater from the Mössbauer spectrometer on the Spirit Rover. Science 305, 833–836 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Christensen, P. R. et al. Initial results from the mini-TES experiment in Gusev Crater from the Spirit Rover. Science 305, 837–842 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    McSween, H. Y. et al. Basaltic rocks analyzed by the Spirit Rover in Gusev Crater. Science 305, 842–845 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    McSween, H. Y. Jr & Treiman, A. in Planetary Materials (ed. Papike, J.) Ch. 6 (Mineralogical Society of America, Washington DC, 1998)

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Hunten, D. M. Possible oxidant sources in the atmosphere and surface of Mars. J. Mol. Evol. 14, 71–78 (1979)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Settle, M. Formation and deposition of volcanic sulfate aerosols on Mars. J. Geophys. Res. 84, 8343–8354 (1979)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Arvidson, R. E. et al. Localization and physical properties experiments conducted by Spirit at Gusev Crater. Science 305, 821–824 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Richardson, M. & Mischna, M. Long-term evolution of transient liquid water on Mars. J. Geophys. Res. 110, doi:10.1029/2004JE002367 (2005)

  14. 14

    Greeley, R. et al. Wind-related processes detected by the Spirit Rover at Gusev crater, Mars. Science 305, 810–821 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Govindaraju, K. Geostandards Newsletter 18 (Special Issue), App. 1, 01–02 (1994)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Bartlett, P. W. et al. Summary of Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) results pertinent to the Mars Exploration Rover science data set. Lunar Planet. Sci. Conf. XXXVI, abstr. 2292 (2005)

  17. 17

    Morris, R. V. et al. Abundance and speciation of water and sulfate at Gusev crater and Meridiani planum. Lunar Planet. Sci. Conf. XXXVI, abstr. 2239 (2005)

  18. 18

    Morris, R. V. et al. Mineralogy, composition, and alteration of Mars Pathfinder rocks and soils: Evidence from multispectral, elemental, and magnetic data on terrestrial analogue, SNC meteorite, and Pathfinder samples. J. Geophys. Res. 105, 1757–1817 (2000)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Clark, B. C. et al. Chemical composition of Martian fines. J. Geophys. Res. 87, 10059–10067 (1982)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Grant, J. A. et al. Surficial deposits at Gusev Crater along Spirit Rover traverses. Science 305, 807–809 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Wang, A. et al. Raman spectroscopic characterization of a highly weathered basalt: igneous mineralogy, alteration products, and a microorganism. J. Geophys. Res. 104, 27067–27077 (1999)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Lide, D. R. Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 82nd edn 4–84 (CRC Press, New York, 2001)

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Gooding, J. L. & Keil, K. Alteration of glass as a possible source of clay minerals on Mars. Geophys. Res. Lett. 5, 727–730 (1978)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Gooding, J. L. Soil mineralogy and chemistry on Mars: Possible clues from salts and clays in SNC meteorites. Icarus 99, 28–41 (1992)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Yen, A. et al. An integrated view of the chemistry and mineralogy of martian soils. Nature doi:10.1038/nature03637 (this issue)

  26. 26

    Clark, B. C. Geochemical components in Martian soils. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 57, 4575–4581 (1993)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Haskin, L. A. et al. On estimating ejecta deposit thicknesses and proportions of materials from distant basins at lunar highland sites. Meteorit. Planet. Sci. 38, 13–33 (2003)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Gorevan, S. P. et al. Rock Abrasion Tool: Mars Exploration Rover mission. J. Geophys. Res. 108, 8068, doi:10.1029/2003JE002061 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

Larry A. Haskin, the lead author of this manuscript, died on 24 March 2005. Larry will be remembered by the Athena Science Team for his dedication since the start of the Athena Science Instrument Payload, for his leadership in developing the Mars Microbeam Raman Spectrometer, and for his contributions during the Mars Exploration Rover mission. We thank the NASA Mars programme for support of our participations in the Mars Exploration Rover mission. We thank the Jet Propulsion Laboratory management and the engineering teams for their handling of the rover, sometimes under trying circumstances. We thank K. Kuebler, L. Keszthelyi, M. Blinder and V. Thomas-Holmes for special assistance.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alian Wang.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Haskin, L., Wang, A., Jolliff, B. et al. Water alteration of rocks and soils on Mars at the Spirit rover site in Gusev crater. Nature 436, 66–69 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03640

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing