I've been partially out of touch recently, with the New Year festivities and a trip to San Antonio. I almost missed this!
Thanks again, Alex. I was hoping to simply "catch up" with the news, but those two articles totally ruined my plans for the night.
Stu: That was an unbelievably excellent piece. You managed to capture the feelings of so many of us in so many ways, and in so few words. I'm stunned. Congratulations.
The David Leonard piece was an enlightening summary for me. Yes, some of it was stuff we had heard previously, but I thought there were many clues to the Mars team's evolving perceptions of what they are seeing through the "eyes" of the rovers and orbiters, now that they have this synergy thing going on.
These are some of his quotes that I thought were notable (taken completely out of context):
Opportunity’s Mini-Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES) has revealed that this material is sulfate-rich all the way down, Squyres said.
We are also in the process of building up images for a fabulous stereo model of the crater,” Farrand told SPACE.com.
On the other side of Mars at Gusev Crater scientists are preparing to steer the Spirit Mars rover back to a region called “Home Plate”—a still baffling formation near the Columbia Hills.
“The recent HiRISE image of the Spirit site has shown us that there are many more scientifically interesting targets around Home Plate than we realized. Some of these features are difficult to spot from ground level,” Squyres pointed out.
Another goal of the traverse around the margin will be to see if there are any indicators of Home Plate’s geologic origin - be it volcanic or just a product of wind action.
“Although it is clear that the materials that make up the outcrops are volcanic, it is not clear whether the deposition was volcanic in origin—air fall or ballistic—or whether it was just blown into a low spot by normal wind processes,” Crumpler explained.
“These are very high priority targets in my opinion,” Rice told SPACE.com. “Von Braun looks like some of the classic layered buttes and mesas one would see here in Arizona. Goddard could be either an impact crater or volcanic vent. The only way to know is to go.”
I left out the "Promised Land" part, only because it seems like such a distant target, but darn, even in the HiRise imagery that stuff's origin is enigmatic.
...and yeah, he said "all the way down."