- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Spirit rover continued probing a tiny Martian trench yesterday that may yield clues about whether the area ever contained water, and was set to begin a 445-foot drive to a crater.

The rover was sending back data from a 3-inch-deep trench it studied with a microscopic imager and a Mossbauer spectrometer, an instrument that measures the composition and abundance of iron-bearing minerals.

Scientists said they hope that the minerals show whether the planet’s environment once held water to support life. Spirit dug the trench by running its front wheel over the planet’s surface.

Spirit’s twin, meanwhile, was investigating a rock dubbed El Capitan, part of a rocky outcropping on the other side of Mars.

The Opportunity rover will remain at El Capitan for several days, taking images and using its rock abrasion tool, known as a “rat,” on at least three areas.

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