Overview of the Spirit Mars Exploration Rover Mission to Gusev Crater: Landing site to Backstay Rock in the Columbia Hills

Raymond E. Arvidson, S. W. Squyres, R. C. Anderson, James F. Bell, D. Blaney, J. Brückner, N. A. Cabrol, W. M. Calvin, M. H. Carr, P. R. Christensen, B. C. Clark, L. Crumpler, D. J. Des Marais, Jr A. de Souza, C. d'Uston, T. Economou, J. Farmer, W. H. Farrand, W. Folkner, Matt P. GolombekS. Gorevan, John A. Grant, R. Greeley, J. Grotzinger, E. Guinness, B. C. Hahn, L. Haskin, Ken E. Herkenhoff, J. A. Hurowitz, S. Hviid, J. R. Johnson, G. Klingelhöfer, A. H. Knoll, G. Landis, C. Leff, M. Lemmon, Rongxing Li, M. B. Madsen, M. C. Malin, S. M. McLennan, H. Y. McSween, D. W. Ming, J. Moersch, R. V. Morris, T. Parker, Jr W. Rice, L. Richter, R. Rieder, D. S. Rodionov, C. Schröder, M. Sims, M. Smith, P. Smith, L. A. Soderblom, R. Sullivan, S. D. Thompson, N. J. Tosca, A. Wang, H. Wänke, J. Ward, T. Wdowiak, M. Wolff, A. Yen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations


Spirit landed on the floor of Gusev Crater and conducted initial operations on soil-covered, rock-strewn cratered plains underlain by olivine-bearing basalts. Plains surface rocks are covered by wind-blown dust and show evidence for surface enrichment of soluble species as vein and void-filling materials and coatings. The surface enrichment is the result of a minor amount of transport and deposition by aqueous processes. Layered granular deposits were discovered in the Columbia Hills, with outcrops that tend to dip conformably with the topography. The granular rocks are interpreted to be volcanic ash and/or impact ejecta deposits that have been modified by aqueous fluids during and/or after emplacement. Soils consist of basaltic deposits that are weakly cohesive, relatively poorly sorted, and covered by a veneer of wind-blown dust. The soils have been homogenized by wind transport over at least the several kilometer length scale traversed by the rover. Mobilization of soluble species has occurred within at least two soil deposits examined. The presence of monolayers of coarse sand on wind-blown bedforms, together with even spacing of granule-sized surface clasts, suggests that some of the soil surfaces encountered by Spirit have not been modified by wind for some time. On the other hand, dust deposits on the surface and rover deck have changed during the course of the mission. Detection of dust devils, monitoring of the dust opacity and lower boundary layer, and coordinated experiments with orbiters provided new insights into atmosphere-surface dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE02S01
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 20 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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