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Oded Aharonson

Associate Professor of
Planetary Science

B.S. 1994, Cornell University

M.Eng. 1995, Cornell University

Ph.D. 2002, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Soil Structure and Stratifcation as Indicators of
Aqueous Transport at the MER Landing Sites

Fig. 1 - Spirit: Gusev Crater
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

Fig 2. - Opportunity: Meridiani Planum
Color processing by M. Lyle
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

NASA's twin robot geologists, the Mars Exploration Rovers, launched toward Mars in June 10 and July 2003, in search of answers about the history of water on Mars. They landed on Mars January 3 and January 24 PST (January 4 and January 25 UTC). The mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet.

Primary among the mission's scientific goals is to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on Mars. The spacecraft are targeted to sites on opposite sides of Mars that appear to have been affected by liquid water in the past. The landing sites are at Gusev Crater, a possible former lake in a giant impact crater, and Meridiani Planum, where mineral deposits (hematite) suggest Mars had a wet past.

What is the nature of stratified soils at the MER landing sites?

What is the role of water in transporting cementing agents to more cohesive units?

What is the spatial extent of such layers?

Motivated by the potential role of liquid, thin films, and vapor in the transport of water and associated solutes, the broad objectives of our investigation are to describe the vertical structure of the landing site soils, to characterize surface seals or crusts, and to constrain the chemical and/or physical processes that lead to their formation.


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