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The Mars Exploration Rovers Unveil New Horizons for Astrobiology

Presenter: David Des Marais, NASA Ames Research Center
When: February 23, 2004 12AM PST

The Mars Exploration Rover mission (MER) investigates how water
has shaped the crustal composition, environmental history, and potential
habitability of Mars. The Gusev Crater and Terra Meridiani landing sites
were chosen because they offer hints that water has shaped their landscapes
and mineralogy. As robotic field geologists, the MER rovers will explore the
roles played by key agents such as water, volcanism, impacts, sunlight and
atmospheric dynamics. For example, water might have helped to form crusts
observed in the Gusev Crater regolith. The composition and fabrics of
bedrock at Terra Meridiani potentially reflect aqueous processes. However,
wind and volcanism have conspired to obscure any effects of water. Still,
by methodically exploring rocks and sediments, the MER rovers might be able
to determine whether the martian environment ever had the potential to
sustain life.

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