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Water on Mars not easy to find, says Texas A&M researcher

COLLEGE STATION, Aug. 10, 2004 Suspected large lakebeds that once were scattered on the planet Mars have not yet been found, say the research team that operated the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Their work appears in the current issue of Science magazine.

Members of the team have written several articles in the magazine, among them "The Spirit Rover's Athena Science Investigation at Gusev Crater" that deals with the search for water on the red planet, and "Pancam Multispectral Imaging Results from the Spirit Rover at Gusev Crater" that focuses on camera images taken by the rovers as they slowly traversed Mars' surface.

Texas A&M University research Mark Lemmon, a member of the Mars rover team and professor in the College of Geosciences, is one of the co-authors of the two articles.

Two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on Mars in January on different areas of the planet to perform a variety of scientific work and experiments. One of the key goals of the $820 million NASA mission was to locate the presence of large quantities of water on Mars, which scientists believed were once there mainly in the form of large lakes and perhaps even small seas.

Only the results of the Spirit rover are detailed in the articles, with information about Opportunity to be published in a future issue.

Although the rovers uncovered the presence of small amounts of water in rock samples, no large lakebeds have yet to be found, Lemmon says.

"We wanted to explore two specific sites on Mars that we thought were once large areas of water," Lemmon explains.

"We selected Gusev Crater for Spirit to roam through because it appeared to have once contained a lake. But so far, we have uncovered no evidence of such a lake or any other large body of water. We did find fairly recent evidence of lava flows, and it appears many of the rocks on Mars are from volcanic eruptions. We have found non-volcanic rocks with Opportunity and may y
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Contact: Keith Randall
kr@univrel.tamu.edu
979-845-4644
Texas A&M University
10-Aug-2004


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