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Surface exploration of Mars




Slide 1

Surface Exploration of Mars: Past & Future

Surface Exploration of Mars: Past & Future

• Martian Meteorites

• Martian Moons

• Martian Surface Exploration

The Viking Landers (early 80s)

Pathfinder (1997)

Current Surface Explorers (three en route!)

Future of Martian Exploration (“astrobiology”)

Slide 2

Martian Meteorites

Martian Meteorites

What are these “meteorites”?

Unusual rocks found in Antarctica

How did they get to Earth?

An impact on Mars (crater size: 10-100 km) ejected

part of the Martian surface

How do we know these meteorites are from Mars?

Chemical composition does not match usual meteorites

Only 1.3 billion yrs old (most asteroid-type meteorites

MUCH older); Higher content of volatile substances

Why aren’t they orange – the color of Mars surface?

Has to do with how the rocks weathered

Slide 3

What DO they tell us?

What DO they tell us?

-Physical processes on Mars

Crust/core developed early in Solar System

Volcanism until < 1 Billion Years ago

- Chemical composition

Different than normal asteroid (meteorite) comp.

Interaction with water

Martian atmosphere composition

What DON’T they tell us?

- Location of origin (on Mars – which part of surface?)

- Enough about Mars’ water & atmosphere

- Need to actually RETURN ROCKS from Mars!!

Case Study: Martian Rock ALH84001

Mass = 1.9 kg

Igneous Rock

Discovered in Antarctica (easier to find) 1984

Formed on Mars 4.5 Billion yr ago

Ejected ~16 Million yr ago

Landed ~13,000 yr ago

Slide 4

Controversial – microbial presence in meteorites??

Controversial – microbial presence in meteorites??

Astrobiology: exciting field of research – study of origin of life in the solar system,universe

- LIFE IS UBIQUITOUS in the universe – we just haven’t found it

- LIFE IS A SPECIAL quirk of nature and timing – very very rare!

Slide 5

Martian Moons

Martian Moons

ü Two moons: Deimos, Phobos

üSmall (~20km) irregularly shaped

ü Orbit Mars in 8hr, 30hr

ü Probably captured asteroids

Slide 6

Risks of Solar System Missions

Risks of Solar System Missions

PROS for Space Missions

üClosest views of the planets

that are possible

üAccess to wavelengths that are unavailable on the ground

üAtmospheric effects gone – get clearer views than on Earth

üDevelopment of sophisticated tech. and research

CONS for Space Missions

+Can not fix/test equipment as easily

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