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2005 Annual Science Report

Marine Biological Laboratory Reporting  |  JUL 2004 – JUN 2005

Recognition of Theoretical Environments on Mars

Project Summary

The diverse iron and sulfate mineralogy, and its associated complex biology, at Rio Tinto is an analog for possible environments on Mars

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

The diverse iron and sulfate mineralogy, and its associated complex biology, at Rio Tinto is an analog for possible environments on Mars. We are interested in developing an understanding of this site from a remotely sensed perspective and thus increase the capacity for exploration of Mars using existing and pending orbital and lander instruments. Our first goal is to develop extensive, quantitative remote sensing databases for the interpretation of Mars observations. This is accomplished through in situ observations, sampling, and laboratory measurements. The first phase of this work (in situ observations and sampling) was accomplished through a field trip to Rio Tinto in January of 2005 when we made in situ reflectance measurements across the range of habitats and ages of deposits, and collected diverse materials for laboratory analysis (Figure 1).

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The field data have been reduced and shown to capture the expected diversity of minerals as determined from previous field investigations. The returned samples have been characterized and prioritized for laboratory measurements and detailed analyses of these samples are proceeding. We have requested airborne hyperspectal data to complete the scaling analyses needed to assess the detectability of Rio Tinto-type environments from orbital platforms. The scaling analyses will proceed from detailed in situ and laboratory observations (cm2 areas) to field-based spatial averaging (m2 areas) to airborne (10s of m2) observations. These analyses will develop a quantitative link between the mineralogy of the Rio Tinto site and remotely sensed measures. Concurrently, we have been investigating remotely acquired data for Mars and have identified a number of sulfate-rich environments that are promising to investigate further. These Mars observations are being used to establish exploration guidelines and inputs to future Mars missions to refine the search for habitats on Mars.

    James Head
    John Mustard
    Aline Gendrin

    Leah Hutchison
    Doctoral Student

    Objective 2.1
    Mars exploration

    Objective 7.1
    Biosignatures to be sought in Solar System materials