Curiosity Rover on Mars

Mineral Diversity and Crystal Chemistry at Gale Crater, Mars from the CheMin X-ray Diffractometer

Haskin Memorial Lecture delivered by Elizabeth Rampe, Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division at NASA Johnson Space Center

The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover arrived in Gale Crater in August 2012 with a primary goal of characterizing the habitability of ancient and modern environments. Curiosity landed in Gale Crater to study a sequence of ~3.5 Ga old sedimentary rocks that, based on orbital spectroscopy, contain secondary minerals that suggest deposition and/or alteration in liquid water. The sedimentary sequence that composes the lower slopes of Mount Sharp within Gale Crater may preserve a dramatic shift on early Mars from a relatively warm and wet climate to a cold and dry climate based on a transition from smectite-bearing to sulfate-bearing strata. The Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument is one of two internal laboratories on Curiosity and includes a transmission X-ray diffractometer (XRD) and X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer. CheMin measures loose sediment samples scooped from the surface and drilled rock powders and provides quantitative mineralogy to a detection limit of ~1 wt.%. Curiosity has primarily been exploring the site of a predominantly ancient lake environment. Here, we discuss the results from CheMin, which demonstrate an astounding diversity in the mineralogy of fluvio-lacustrine rocks that signify variations in source rock composition, sediment transport mechanisms, and depositional and diagenetic fluid chemistry.

Rampe will deliver this year's Larry Haskin Memorial LectureRead more about Rampe on the ARES website.


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