Spirit & Opportunity Year Highlights
01.10.2017 Mars 2020 Rover - Artist's Concept
01.06.2017 Earth and Its Moon, as Seen From Mars
12.13.2016 Now and Long Ago at Gale Crater, Mars
12.13.2016 Where's Boron? Mars Rover Detects It
11.15.2016 Schiaparelli Impact Site on Mars, Stereo
11.03.2016 Schiaparelli Impact Site on Mars, in Color
10.17.2016 MAVEN Captures Rapid Cloud Formation
10.17.2016 Mars' Nightside Atmosphere
10.17.2016 Ultraviolet Image Near Mars' South Pole
10.17.2016 Ultraviolet Mars Reveals Cloud Formation
10.05.2016 Dust Haze Hiding the Martian Surface in 2001
10.04.2016 Test of Lander Vision System for Mars 2020
10.03.2016 A Sharpened Ultraviolet View of Mars
10.03.2016 Curiosity Self-Portrait at 'Murray Buttes'
10.03.2016 Butte 'M9a' in 'Murray Buttes' on Mars
09.19.2016 Ribbon Cutting
09.09.2016 Farewell to Murray Buttes (Image 5)
09.09.2016 Farewell to Murray Buttes (Image 4)
09.09.2016 Farewell to Murray Buttes (Image 3)
09.09.2016 Farewell to Murray Buttes (Image 2)
09.09.2016 Farewell to Murray Buttes (Image 1)
08.26.2016 Out-of-this-World Records
08.04.2016 Mars Rover Is New Social Media Game
08.04.2016 Mars Rover Social Media Game
08.02.2016 Artist Concept for RIMFAX
07.20.2016 Viking 40 Year Anniversary Artwork: Medal
07.18.2016 Mars 2020 Range Trigger
07.14.2016 NASA to Launch Mars Rover in 2020
Hardened Lava Meets Wind on MarsNASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit used its microscopic imager to capture these spectacular, jagged mini-landscape on a rock called "GongGong."
Measuring only 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) across, this rock surface records two of the most important and violent forces in the history of Mars -- volcanoes and wind.
GongGong formed billions of years ago in a seething, stirring mass of molten rock. It captured bubbles of gases that were trapped at great depth but had separated from the main body of lava as it rose to the surface. Like taffy being stretched and tumbled, the molten rock was deformed as it moved across an ancient Martian landscape. The tiny bubbles of gas were deformed as well, becoming elongated. When the molten lava solidified, the rock looked like a frozen sponge.
Far from finished with its life, the rock then withstood billions of years of pelting by small sand grains carried by Martian dust storms that sometimes blanketed the planet. The sand wore away the surface until, little by little, the delicate strands that enclosed the bubbles of gas were breached and the spiny texture we see today emerged.
Even now, wind continues to deposit sand and dust in the holes and crevices of the rock.
Similar rocks can be found on Earth where the same complex interplay of volcanoes and weathering occur, whether it be the pelting of rocks by sand grains in the Mojave desert or by ice crystals in the frigid Antarctic.
GongGong is one of a group of rocks studied by Spirit and informally named by the Athena Science Team to honor the Chinese New Year (the Year of the Dog). In Chinese mythology, GongGong was the god-king of water in the North Land. When he sacrificed his life to knock down Mount BuZhou, he defeated the bad Emperor in Heaven, freed the sun, moon and stars to go from east to west, and caused all the rivers in China to flow from west to east.
Spirit's microscopic imager took this image during on the rover's 736th day, or sol, of exploring Mars (Jan. 28, 2006). The rock lies in the "Inner Basin" between "Husband Hill" and "McCool Hill" in Gusev Crater. Spirit acquired the image while the rock was fully shadowed, with diffuse illumination mostly from the top in this view.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/USGS