‘Clovis’ amongst stars

By Eric Norwood Jr.
CNJ STAFF WRITER
enorwood@pntonline.com

The name Clovis is out of this world.

Don’t believe it? Proof is at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, where there is a photo of an outcropping on Mars named after the city of Clovis and prehistoric spear points found at Blackwater Draw.

Courtesy photo: NASA This is a photo of the “Clovis” outcropping in the Columbia Hills on Mars, taken by the Spirit rover Aug. 26, 2004.

Courtesy photo: NASA
This is a photo of the “Clovis” outcropping in the Columbia Hills on Mars, taken by the Spirit rover Aug. 26, 2004.

“From a distance, it looked like a giant spear point laying on the hillside,” said Larry Crumpler, a planetary geologist and volcanologist who has been involved on the Mars Exploration Rover science team since its inception. Crumpler also works as a research curator for volcanology and space sciences at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

An outcrop is an expression for an exposure of bedrock. The Clovis outcrop on Mars is about 6 feet by 3 feet high, according to Crumpler.

Photos from the Mars Exploration Rover Mission are available for the public to view for the first time on the 10th anniversary of when the Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on Mars in January 2004. The rovers have been roaming the planet and snapping photos continuously since then.

The photos are only being exhibited at two locations; at the Smithsonian Institute Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., and at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque.

The exhibit at the NM Museum of Natural History and Science will be on display through April.

Crumpler’s job with MER aligns with his duties at the museum.

“I know the data better than anyone. I receive data downlinked from Mars on a daily basis and interact with the rest of the team on a daily basis to operate the rover Opportunity on Mars,” Crumpler said.

“When the name of Clovis is used in a positive way to designate a place, then we are proud to share that name,” Clovis Mayor David Lansford said when the site was originally named Clovis in 2004.

As far as Crumpler, he is still working toward discovery and making history.

“We observe, collect, and interpret what we see in places where no one has ever gone, on a planet that no one has ever walked across. It is “Lewis and Clark on Mars”, a giant natural history expedition to another planet,” Crumpler said