Facelifts can sag. Botox is temporary. But modern science has a new way to return youth to weathered faces: the rock abrasion tool (RAT). If your dermatologist hasn’t heard of it, ask your local Mars scientist. Billions of years of exposure to the sun, atmosphere and extremely fine Martian dust has given Mars rocks a weathered “rind,” or exterior layer. The RAT, part of the science-instrument package carried by the two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, uses a diamond-tipped robotic grinding tool to scrape away this weathered exterior, revealing a fresh surface.
You can’t tell a rock by its rind: How a tiny abrasion tool will help reveal geology of Mars Cornell News
Spinning spokes: Cornell scientists develop method for using rover wheels to study Martian soil by digging holes Cornell News
After the twin Mars Exploration Rovers bounce onto the red planet and begin touring the Martian terrain in January, onboard spectrometers and cameras will gather data and images — and the rovers’ wheels will dig holes. Working together, a Cornell University planetary geologist and a civil engineer have found a way to use the wheels to study the Martian soil by digging the dirt with a spinning wheel. “It’s nice to roll over geology, but every once in a while you have to pull out a shovel, dig a hole and find out what is really underneath your feet,” says Robert Sullivan, senior research associate in space sciences and a planetary geology member of the Mars mission’s science team. He devised the plan with Harry Stewart, Cornell associate professor of civil engineering, and engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena.