In this image taken on 15 July 2015 by the High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) aboard ESA’s Mars Express you can see a perspective view in Noctis Labyrinthus on Mars. Visible are details of landslides in the steep-sided walls of the flat-topped graben (https://goo.gl/Rma96b) in the foreground, and in the valley walls in the background. Image resolution is about 16 meters per pixel.
On March 22, 2010, communication with NASA’s Mars rover Spirit was lost.
Originally designed for a 90 Sol mission (a Sol, one Martian day, is slightly longer than one Earth day) few would have expected Mars Exploration Rover Spirit to operate as long as 2210 Sols – that’s 24.5 times the planned mission duration!
“It’s an incredible testimony to engineering that this plucky little craft survived 3 winters, when it wasn’t designed to survive any such weather conditions at all,” said Neil Mottinger, a navigation engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Landing on the opposite side of Mars from its twin, the still operating Opportunity rover, Spirit was part of an effort to answer important questions surrounding the history of the Martian environment and its suitability for the formation of life. Understandably, one central element of these questions was to better understand the history of water on the planet – from its current status to what early Martian topography may have looked like.
One of many discoveries that Spirit made included finding supportive evidence suggesting rocks from the plains of Gusev had been slightly altered by tiny amounts of water. As the rover had observed, outside coatings and cracks within these samples had suggested water deposited minerals.
While Spirit delivered troves of valuable data home during its activity, it became irrecoverably obstructed in soft soil on Sol 1892 (May 1st, 2009), an incident that would spell the end for the rover. Attempts to free the rover ended on Sol 2155 (January 26, 2010), when NASA reclassified the mission as a stationary research platform. It continued performing science operations from its current location until communication with Spirit was lost on Sol 2210 (March 22, 2010). Attempts to reestablish communication with the rover have been unsuccessful.
Watch this short video, “The Legacy of Mars Rover Spirit”
Mars Guide: Cerberus Fossae – In the Relay Zone | NASA MRO
These trenches or “fossae” are about a kilometer (0.62 miles) across. This area shows where two segments have joined up and are close to a third section. The fossae are probably areas where the surface has collapsed down into voids made from faults (huge cracks with movement on either side) that don’t extend up to the surface. In structural geology, when multiple faults are closely spaced, we call that a relay zone. These zones have much higher stress built up in the crust and consequently tend to be more fractured. These fractures can serve as “pipes” for fluids (water, lava, gases) to flow through.
This area corresponds with the youngest of Mars’ giant outflow channels, Athabasca Valles, that is only 2 to 20 million years old and shows geologic evidence of having been formed and modified jointly by water and lava.