This paper summarizes Spirit Rover operations in the Columbia Hills, Gusev crater, from sol 1410 (start of the third winter campaign) to sol 2169 (when extrication attempts from Troy stopped to winterize the vehicle) and provides an overview of key scientific results. The third winter campaign took advantage of parking on the northern slope of Home Plate to tilt the vehicle to track the sun and thus survive the winter season. With the onset of the spring season, Spirit began circumnavigating Home Plate on the way to volcanic constructs located to the south. Silica-rich nodular rocks were discovered in the valley to the north of Home Plate. The inoperative right front wheel drive actuator made climbing soil-covered slopes problematical and led to high slip conditions and extensive excavation of subsurface soils. This situation led to embedding of Spirit on the side of a shallow, 8 m wide crater in Troy, located in the valley to the west of Home Plate. Examination of the materials exposed during embedding showed that Spirit broke through a thin sulfate-rich soil crust and became embedded in an underlying mix of sulfate and basaltic sands. The nature of the crust is consistent with dissolution and precipitation in the presence of soil water within a few centimeters of the surface. The observation that sulfate-rich deposits in Troy and elsewhere in the Columbia Hills are just beneath the surface implies that these processes have operated on a continuing basis on Mars as landforms have been shaped by erosion and deposition.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science