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The Mystery Rock on Mars

from  KHouse January 2013
A mysterious rock said to resemble a “jelly donut” suddenly appeared, apparently out of nowhere, in front of the Opportunity Mars rover. It is “like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” according to NASA scientists.

Experts said they were “completely confused” by both the origins and makeup of the object. (The rock is currently being analyzed by the remote diagnostic equipment onboard Opportunity.)
Astronomers noticed the new rock after it had “appeared” without any explanation on an outcropping which had previously been empty just days before. By sheer coincidence, the rover has been stationary for about a month due to bad weather and NASA scientists have been looking at the area in detail since it has nowhere else to go. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California is actually doing the analysis of the Martian surface.
NASA issued a Mars status report entitled “encountering a surprise,” and the head scientist for the Opportunity mission, Steve Squyres, was quoted as saying that Mars “keeps throwing new things at us.”
Squyres said that two pictures taken on the Martian surface just 12 Martian days apart first showed an empty landscape, then “We saw this rock just sitting here. It looks white around the edge in the middle and there’s a low spot in the center that’s dark red—it looks like a jelly doughnut.
“And it appeared, just plain appeared at that spot—and we haven’t ever driven over that spot.”
Squyres said his team had two theories on how the rock got there—that there’s “a smoking hole in the ground somewhere nearby” and it was caused by a meteor or that it was “somehow flicked out of the ground by a wheel” as the rover went by.
“We had driven a meter or two away from here, and I think the idea that somehow we mysteriously flicked it with a wheel is the best explanation,” Squyres said.
However, the riddle wrapped in a puzzle gets even stranger once the rover took a deeper look into the rock. Squyres explained: “We are as we speak situated with the rover’s instruments deployed making measurements of this rock.
“We’ve taken pictures of both the doughnut and jelly parts, and then got the first data on the composition of the jelly yesterday.
“It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” he said. “It’s very high in sulphur, it’s very high in magnesium and it’s got twice as much manganese as we’ve ever seen in anything on Mars.
“I don’t know what any of this means. We’re completely confused, and everyone in the team is arguing and fighting (over what it means).
“That’s the beauty of this mission… what I’ve realized is that we will never be finished. There will always be something tantalizing, something wonderful just beyond our reach that we didn’t quite get to—and that’s the nature of exploration.”
While Spirit lost contact with Earth and was later declared “dead” in 2010, Opportunity has now roamed the planet far in excess of what was originally planned as a three-month mission. NASA said that with its maximum speed of just 0.05mph, as of “Sol 3547” (15 January 2014) Opportunity had covered just over 24 miles (38km).
For Further Reading
Bertha, M. (2014, January 20). NASA scientists are arguing about a ‘jelly donut’ rock they found on Mars.
Retrieved from Philly.com: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/trending/NASA-scientists-are-arguing-about-a-weird-rock-they-found-on-Mars.html
CNN. (2014, January 21). Rock Mysteriously Appears in Front of the Mars Opportunity Rover.
Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkDBIkYoVJw

Landau, E. (2014, January 21). Mystery rock spotted on Mars.
Retrieved from CNN.com: http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/20/tech/innovation/mars-mystery-rock/

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