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2008 Annual Science Report

Marine Biological Laboratory Reporting  |  JUL 2007 – JUN 2008

Recognition of Theoretical Environments on Mars

Project Summary

Our goal is to develop remotely sensed signatures that provide guideposts to analyzing remotely sensed data from Mars to explore for habitable environments. We are working with the biologically diverse, iron-rich environments of Rio Tinto and their mineral deposits to develop strategies for interpreting data from Mars.

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

Based on our previous work we are able to develop techniques a) to identify potentially habitable environments from remotely sensed visible-near infrared (VNIR) spectroscopy and b) to apply these techniques to remote sensed data of Mars. Through this process we have been able to enrich the range of habitable environments that can be considered on Mars. A key result of the analysis of the Mars data from the perspectives gained through the Rio Tinto work has been the diversity of Fe sulfates that have been identified in the CRISM data of Mars. Surprisingly the diversity of Fe-oxides has been rather small. This is thought to be a consequence of the dominance of fine-grained hematite that suppresses the ability of spectroscopy to detect other iron oxide minerals when fine-grained hematite is present. The work done in the context of the Rio Tinto effort for the MBL NAI has contributed significantly to the interpretation of CRISM data of Mars, and was a factor in the first results paper that was produced from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission. We have also participated significantly in the selection process for the Mars Science Laboratory. Co-I Mustard is on the MSL Landing Site Selection Steering committee and C o-Is Head and Mustard have contributed potential landing sites. One of these sites is among the final six that are under intense evaluation in preparation for the final selection process in the spring of 2009.

    James Head
    John Mustard
    Leah Hutchison
    Doctoral Student

    Objective 2.1
    Mars exploration

    Objective 7.1
    Biosignatures to be sought in Solar System materials