Last week, I attended a meeting of lunar scientists to talk about the science direction of the return to the Moon "vision" that NASA has. After work, we got talking about Mars, and one of my colleagues said that he was disappointed at the lack of depth in the MER outreach web pages. He said, it's always that the rover is looking at a rock, and he thinks, well duh, of course the rover is looking at a rock, that what the rovers do. But why? What's the science?
It was with that comment fresh in my mind that I was asked to write a caption for this week's public image release for Spirit, which has been working on this really interesting rock. We had to do a little bit of work to strike the right balance between getting the interesting part to the public while still being cautious because the results come out so fast that we scientists don't always have time to keep up with the data before moving on, and so our detailed science can lag behind the rovers' discoveries. The chemical and mineralogical data, in particular, take a lot of time and attention to be sure the calibrations and interpretations are the best we can do. In the case of Halley this week, I was pleased that we were able to give some specifics that the team agrees on.