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Scientists were using the Moessbauer spectrometer on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit when something unexpected happened. The instrument's contact ring had been placed onto the ground as a reference point for placement of another instrument, the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, for analyzing the soil. After Spirit removed the Moessbauer from the target, the rover's microscopic imager revealed a gap in the imprint left behind in the soil. The gap, about a centimeter wide (less than half an inch), is visible on the left side of this mosaic of images. Scientists concluded that a small chunk of soil probably adhered to the contact ring on the front surface of the Moessbauer. Before anyone saw that soil may have adhered to the Moessbauer, that instrument was placed to analyze martian dust collected by a magnet on the rover. The team plans to take images to see if any soil is still attached to the Moessbauer. Spirit took these images on the rover's 240th martian day, or sol (Sept. 4, 2004).
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