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SLUG: 2-312919 Mars Rovers (L-Only)










INTRO: The U-S Mars rover "Opportunity" has photographed an unusual rock that scientists say reminds them of a blueberry muffin. As they debate its origins, the twin rover "Spirit" is making its way to its second rock in the search for traces of water on the red planet. V-O-A's David McAlary reports from Washington.

TEXT: Researchers are amazed at a set of close-up images from Opportunity on the Plains of Meridiani showing small round pebbles in the layers of a very fine-grained sample of exposed bedrock.


This is wild lookin' stuff!

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Steven Squyres [rhymes with WIRES] of Cornell University describes a rock worn away over millions of years by nature's sandblasting, exposing small embedded spheres that fall out of it.

/// 2nd SQUYRES ACT ///

Embedded in the stuff are the little spherules [spherical granules]. Those seem to be pretty tough. What happens is the rock erodes away as it gets sand blasted, and then these little "blueberries in the muffin" drop out and roll down the slope.

/// END ACT ///

Mr. Squyres says the blueberry-like pebbles could have formed inside the rock when water seeped through it and deposited dissolved minerals. If so, this would be evidence the rovers have been seeking, that Mars once had water that might have supported life.

However, the pebbles could have formed when molten rock or lava sprayed into the air after a meteor impact or volcanic eruption at the Meridiani plains, hardened into beads as it cooled, and fell into Martian dust or volcanic ash that compacted over the ages into rock.

Mr. Squyres says his team will probably know whether water was involved in the pebble formation when they apply Opportunity's suite of geologic instruments to determine its mineral makeup.

/// OPT 3rd SQUYRES ACT ///

The more we get into this Meridiani thing, the more it's reminding me of a mystery novel. You start into a mystery novel and you start getting clues one at a time, and some of them mean something, some of them are probably red herrings [fake]. You don't know which is which and we're working our way through them.

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At Gusev Crater on the other side of Mars, the Spirit rover over the past weekend performed the first rock scraping on another planet. This let scientists take close-up images of its interior structure and learn its mineral content with special sensing instruments. They have determined that it is an ordinary volcanic rock, so they are directing Spirit to drive to a white rock next.

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One of the rover engineers, Mark Maimome [may-MOHM], says driving has entered a new phase, where the vehicles pilot themselves. The technicians merely relay information about the target locations, and the rovers move to them autonomously, avoiding certain types of hazardous terrain.


The rover takes a look in front of it and it figures out what the shape of the ground is and builds a map. We're going to let it choose its path for some of the way.

/// END ACT ///



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