March 5, 2004
This image, acquired by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit's panoramic camera on the 53rd martian day, or sol, of the rover's mission, struck science and engineering teams as not only scientifically interesting but remarkably beautiful. The large, shadowed rock in the foreground is nicknamed 'Sandia' for a mountain range in New Mexico. An imposing rock, 'Sandia' is about 33 centimeters high (1 foot) and about 1.7 meters (5.5 feet) long. Scientists believe 'Sandia' is a basaltic rock that landed on its side after being ejected from the crater. The vertical lines on the side of the rock facing the camera are known by geologists as 'flow banding' and typically run horizontally, indicating that 'Sandia' is on its side. What look like small holes on the two visible sides of the rock are called vesicles; they were probably once gas bubbles within the lava.
Topics: Mars Exploration Rover, Spacecraft, Space exploration, Sandia, Lava, Volcanology, Spirit rover, Mars, Environment