Physical properties of the Mars Exploration Rover landing sites as inferred from Mini-TES-derived thermal inertia

Robin L. Fergason, Philip Christensen, James Bell, Matthew P. Golombek, Kenneth E. Herkenhoff, Hugh H. Kieffer

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112 Scopus citations


The Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES) on board the two Mars Exploration Rovers provides the first opportunity to observe thermal properties from the Martian surface, relate these properties to orbital data, and perform soil conductivity experiments under Martian conditions. The thermal inertias of soils, bedforms, and rock at each landing site were derived to quantify the physical properties of these features and understand geologic processes occurring at these localities. The thermal inertia for the. Gusev plains rock target Bonneville Beacon (∼1200 J m-2 K-1 s-1/2) is consistent with a dense, basaltic rock, but the rocks at the Columbia Hills have a lower thermal inertia (∼620 J m-2 K-1 s-1/2), suggesting that they have a volcaniclasic origin. Bedforms on the floors of craters at both landing sites have thermal inertias of 200 J m-2 K-1 s-1/2, consistent with a particle diameter of ∼160 μm. This diameter is comparable to the most easily moved grain size in the current atmosphere on Mars, suggesting that these bedforms may have formed under current atmospheric conditions. Along the Meridiani plains, the thermal inertia is lower than that derived from TES and Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) orbital data. This discrepancy is not well understood. Mini-TES-derived thermal inertias at Gusev along a ∼2.5 km traverse follow trends in thermal inertia measured from orbit with TES and THEMIS. However, along the traverse, there are variability and mixing of particle sizes that are not resolved in the orbital thermal inertia data due to meter-scale processes that are not identifiable at larger scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE02S21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 20 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Oceanography


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