Rock Hounding on Mars
Scoria and Basalt on Salty Dried Lake Bed

Spirit Rover playing in the sand...

When one of Spirit's wheels became jammed, it caused the wheel arm to drag through the soft sand. Just beneath the brown top soil layer of dust, Spirit uncovered MINERAL SALTS of various colors. Just like the dry lake beds in Nevada where the seas and lakes have dried up and left salt flats, so too do we find deep deposits of salt on Mars. However they are not hard packed on Mars like they are in the deserts of earth because there is no current rainfall. In the images below we see the yellow of SULFUR and shades of pale blue and white.

Panoramic Camera :: Sol 721

Image Source: NASA #2 2P190370611EFFAMENP2538R1M1.JPG
Image Source: NASA #2 2P190370611EFFAMENP2538R1M1.JPG

NASA: SOL 721 Gallery

Salty Soil

Mars Rovers Break Driving Records, Examine Salty Soil - March 02, 2005

Spirit, meanwhile, has uncovered soil that is more than half salt, adding to the evidence for Mars' wet past. The golf-cart-size robots successfully completed their three-month primary missions in April 2004 and are continuing extended mission operations.

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Salty Expression (False Color) - January 20,-2006

Spirit uncovered several types of materials distinctive in their color, physical properties and chemistry as a result of accidentally digging a trench 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) wide during a turn at the end of a drive. The white material in this image is brighter than any seen previously by the rover. It has a powdery and cloddy texture and exhibits a high abundance of salts. The materials appear similar in some ways to bright soil deposits seen back at the "Paso Robles" site that Spirit encountered on the rover's Martian day, or sol, 431 (March 20, 2005) while climbing the northern flank of "Husband Hill."

Spirit analyzed the bright, yellowish exposures in the lower left part of the frame using instruments on the rover's robotic arm. Scientists hypothesized and then confirmed that these materials have a salty chemistry dominated by iron-bearing sulfates. These salts may record the past presence of water, as they are most easily mobilized and concentrated in liquid solution. Spirit also examined the unusual, pitted rock about 10 centimeters (4 inches) wide in the lower center of the frame. Scientists continue to study the origin of these rocks and soils and the role that water has played in their formation.

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
"McCool Hill"

Bright Soil Near 'McCool': Salty Deja Vu? - March 23, 2006

While driving eastward toward the northwestern flank of "McCool Hill," the wheels of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit churned up the largest amount of bright soil discovered so far in the mission. This image from Spirit's navigation camera, taken on the rover's 787th Martian day, or sol, of exploration (March 21, 2006), shows the strikingly light tone and large extent of the deposit.

These discoveries indicate that light-toned soil deposits might be widely distributed on the flanks and valley floors of the "Columbia Hills" region in Gusev Crater on Mars. The salts may record the past presence of water, as they are easily mobilized and concentrated in liquid solution.

Image PIA08618.jpg Courtesy NASA/JPL
Click on image for large size

More Salt

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
Click image for larger view
Seems there is a lot of salt on Mars and judging from the depth that the rover tracks stirred up its loosely packed unlike the hard packed salt flats on Earth. This is pretty concrete evidense that Mars was covered with salt water oceans at some time in its past. The image above is a composite of color images from: Spirit Rover Sol 788

Still More Salts
Panoramic Camera :: Sol 723
Image Source: NASA

NASA: SOL 723 Gallery

Panoramic Camera :: Sol 725
Image Source: NASA

NASA: SOL 725 Gallery

Panoramic Camera :: Sol 728
Image Source: NASA #6 2P190987743EFFAMJ5P2549R1M1

Image Source: NASA #6 2P190987743EFFAMJ5P2549R1M1

NASA: SOL 728 Gallery

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Rock Hounding on Mars - 006 - Salts