In press: December 16, 2014
Volume 11, Number 1 (February) • MINERALOGY OF MARS
The Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity touched down on the surface of Mars on August 5, 2012. Curiosity was built to search and explore for habitable environments. The rover has a lifetime of at least one Mars year (~23 months) and a drive capability of more than 20 km. The MSL science payload can assess ancient habitability, which requires the detection of former water, a source of energy to fuel microbial metabolism, and key elements such as carbon, sulfur, nitrogen, and phosphorus. Within 8 months of landing, we were able to confirm full mission success. This was based on the discovery of fine-grained sedimentary rocks, inferred to represent an ancient lake. These rocks (Sheepbed mudstone) preserve evidence of an aqueous paleoenvironment that would have been suited to support a Martian biosphere founded on chemolithoautotrophy and characterized by neutral pH, low salinity, and variable redox states for both iron and sulfur species. C, H, N, O, S, and P were measured directly as key biogenic elements. The environment likely had a minimum duration of hundreds to tens of thousands of years. These results highlight the biological viability of fluvial–lacustrine environments in the ancient history of Mars and the value of robots in geologic exploration.
A publication of the Mineralogical Society of America, the Mineralogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland, the Geochemical Society, the Mineralogical Association of Canada, The Clay Minerals Society, the International Association of GeoChemistry, the European Association of Geochemistry, the Société Française de Minéralogie et de Cristallographie, the Association of Applied Geochemists, the Deutsche Mineralogische Gesellschaft, the International Association of Geoanalysts, the Società Italiana di Mineralogia e Petrologia, the Polskie Towarzystwo Mineralogiczne (Mineralogical Society of Poland), the Sociedad Española de Mineralogía (Spanish Mineralogical Society), the Swiss Society of Mineralogy and Petrology, The Meteoritical Society, and the Japan Association of Mineralogical Sciences.
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