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FEATURE ARTICLE

Rocks at the Mars Pathfinder Landing Site

Chemical analyses and spectral images of Martian boulders allow inferences about their origins

Harry Y. McSween,Jr., Scott Murchie

Figure 2. Landing site of the Mars PathfinderClick to Enlarge Image

The Mars Pathfinder spacecraft landed in a giant Martian floodplain, at the confluence of two ancient river valleys—a site chosen for the supposed variety of rocks that would have been carried downstream by the catastrophic flood that sculpted the region billions of years ago. Aboard the spacecraft, two scientific instruments—an imager and a spectrometer—peered at and analyzed the Martian rocks and the soil with the aim of further defining the geologic history of the Red Planet. So far the results of the analyses are consistent with the hypothesis that many of the rocks have a volcanic origin, and that they have variously experienced a catastrophic flood and a period of meteoric bombardment.


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