The rocks of Gusev Crater as viewed by the Mini-TES instrument

Steven Ruff, Philip Christensen, D. L. Blaney, W. H. Farrand, Jeffrey R. Johnson, J. R. Michalski, J. E. Moersch, S. P. Wright, Steven W. Squyres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


The Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES) on board the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit is part of a payload designed to investigate whether a lake once existed in Gusev Crater. Mini-TES has observed hundreds of rocks along the rover's traverse into the Columbia Hills, yielding information on their distribution, bulk mineralogy, and the potential role of water at the site. Although dust in various forms produces contributions to the spectra, we have established techniques for dealing with it. All of the rocks encountered on the plains traverse from the lander to the base of the Columbia Hills share common spectral features consistent with an olivine-rich basaltic rock known as Adirondack Class. Beginning at the base of the West Spur of the Columbia Hills and across its length, the rocks are spectrally distinct from the plains but can be grouped into a common type called Clovis Class. These rocks, some of which appear as in-place outcrop, are dominated by a component whose spectral character is consistent with unaltered basaltic glass despite evidence from other rover instruments for significant alteration. The northwest flank of Husband Hill is covered in float rocks known as Wishstone Class with spectral features that can be attributed uniquely to plagioclase feldspar, a phase that represents more than half of the bulk mineralogy. Rare exceptions are three classes of basaltic "exotics" found scattered across Husband Hill that may represent impact ejecta and/or float derived from local intrusions within the hills. The rare outcrops observed on Husband Hill display distinctive spectral characteristics. The outcrop called Peace shows a feature attributable to molecular bound water, and the outcrop that hosts the rock called Watchtower displays a dominant basaltic glass component. Despite evidence from the rover's payload for significant alteration of some of the rocks, no unambiguous detection of crystalline phyllosilicates or other secondary silicates has been observed by Mini-TES. The mineralogical results supplied by Mini-TES provide no clear evidence that a lake once existed in Gusev Crater.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE12S18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 20 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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