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Gomez F.,CSIC - National Institute of Aerospace Technology | Walter N.,Space science Unit | Amils R.,CSIC - National Institute of Aerospace Technology | Amils R.,Autonomous University of Madrid | And 15 more authors.
International Journal of Astrobiology | Year: 2011

Recently reported results from latest Mars Orbiters and Rovers missions are transforming our opinion about the red planet. That dry and inhospitable planet reported in the past is becoming a wetter planet with high probabilities of water existence in the past. Nowadays, some results seem to indicate the presence of water beneath the Mars surface. But also mineralogy studies by NASA Opportunity Rover report iron oxides and hydroxides precipitates on Endurance Crater. Sedimentary deposits have been identified at Meridiani Planum. These deposits must have generated in a dune aqueous acidic and oxidizing environment. Similarities appear when we study Rio Tinto, and acidic river under the control of iron. The discovery of extremophiles on Earth widened the window of possibilities for life to develop in the Universe, and as a consequence on Mars and other planetary bodies with astrobiological interest. The compilation of data produced by the ongoing missions offers an interested view for life possibilities to exist: signs of an early wet Mars and rather recent volcanic activity as well as ground morphological characteristics that seem to be promoted by liquid water. The discovery of important accumulations of sulfates and the existence of iron minerals such as jarosite in rocks of sedimentary origin has allowed specific terrestrial models to come into focus. Río Tinto (Southwestern Spain, Iberian Pyritic Belt) is an extreme acidic environment, product of the chemolithotrophic activity of micro-organisms that thrive in the massive pyrite-rich deposits of the Iberian Pyritic Belt. Some particular protective environments should house the organic molecules and bacterial life forms in harsh environments such as Mars surface supporting microniches inside precipitated minerals or inside rocks. Terrestrial analogues could help us to afford the comprehension of habitability (on other planetary bodies). We are reporting here the multidisciplinary study of some endolithic niches inside salt deposits used by phototrophs for taking advantage of sheltering particular light wavelengths. These acidic salts deposits located in Río Tinto shelter life forms that are difficult to visualize by eye. This interdisciplinary field analogue campaign was conducted in the framework of the CAREX FP7 EC programme. © 2011 Cambridge University Press.


Fernandez-Remolar D.C.,CSIC - National Institute of Aerospace Technology | Prieto-Ballesteros O.,CSIC - National Institute of Aerospace Technology | Gomez-Ortiz D.,Rey Juan Carlos University | Fernandez-Sampedro M.,CSIC - National Institute of Aerospace Technology | And 3 more authors.
Icarus | Year: 2011

The presence of extensive phyllosilicate deposits from the early Noachian of Mars are often interpreted as having formed from neutral to subalkaline solutions. In this paper we examine the Río Tinto fluvial basin, an early Mars analog, that hosts clay production and sedimentation along the entire course of the river. At Río Tinto, phyllosilicate minerals including clays and micas are sourced by volcanosedimentary bedrock of rhyolitic and andesitic composition affected by Carboniferous hydrothermal alteration. Pleistocene to modern acidic weathering of those materials chemically altered the volcanic and sedimentary materials to K/Na-clay-(montmorillonite/smectites)-kaolinite assemblages in paleosoils and fractures while physical weathering degrades phyllosilicates more resistant to acidic attack. During the wet season, phyllosilicates are eroded, transported and deposited from both acidic headwaters and neutral tributaries. During the dry season, sulfates and nanophase oxyhydroxides co-precipitate. Late summer storms that cause fast flooding events mix illite, quartz, feldspars, iron oxides and other minerals in fluvial deposits where these minerals are stabilized and aggrade until the following wet season. As a result, chemical precipitates, primary phyllosilicates and secondary clays form mineral admixtures that explain the compositional diversity of the fluvial deposits. These deposits reveal the persistence of smectites, whose occurrence is explained given that the reaction kinetics under acidic conditions of degradation is lowered by seasonal discharges of the river. The longevity of phyllosilicate minerals within fluvial deposits depends on climatic and geochemical conditions and processes which are in turn are correlated to temperature, persistence of water, hydrological cycling, hydrogeochemistry and composition of the source materials in the basement. These parameters are universal and have to be characterized in order to understand the distribution of mineral composition on any planetary surface, including Mars. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.


Foing B.H.,European Space Agency | Foing B.H.,VU University Amsterdam | Stoker C.,NASA | Zavaleta J.,NASA | And 22 more authors.
International Journal of Astrobiology | Year: 2011

We describe the field demonstration of astrobiology instruments and research methods conducted in and from the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah during the EuroGeoMars campaign 2009 coordinated by ILEWG, ESA/ESTEC and NASA Ames, with the contribution of academic partners. We discuss the entire experimental approach from determining the geological context using remote sensing, in situ measurements, sorties with sample collection and characterization, analysis in the field laboratory, to the post sample analysis using advanced laboratory facilities. We present the rationale for terrestrial field campaigns to strengthen astrobiology research and the link between in situ and orbital remote sensing data. These campaigns are supporting the preparation for future missions such as Mars Science Laboratory, ExoMars or Mars Sample Return. We describe the EuroGeoMars 2009 campaign conducted by MDRS crew 76 and 77, focused on the investigation of surface processes in their geological context. Special emphasis was placed on sample collection and pre-screening using in-situ portable instruments. Science investigations included geological and geochemical measurements as well as detection and diagnostic of water, oxidants, organic matter, minerals, volatiles and biota. EuroGeoMars 2009 was an example of a Moon-Mars field research campaign dedicated to the demonstration of astrobiology instruments and a specific methodology of comprehensive measurements from selected sampling sites. We discuss in sequence: the campaign objectives and trade-off based on science, technical or operational constraints. This includes remote sensing data and maps, and geological context; the monitoring of environmental parameters; the geophysical context and mineralogy studies; geology and geomorphology investigations; geochemistry characterization and subsurface studies. We describe sample handling (extraction and collection) methods, and the sample analysis of soils and rocks performed in the MDRS laboratory using close inspection, initial petrological characterization, microscopy, Visible-NIR spectrometry, Raman spectrometry, X-ray diffraction/X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, soil analysis, electrochemical and biological measurements. The results from post-mission analysis of returned samples using advanced facilities in collaborator institutes are described in companion papers in this issue. We present examples of in-situ analysis, and describe an example investigation on the exploration and analysis of endolithic microbial mats (from reconnaissance, in-situ imaging, sampling, local analysis to post-mission sample analysis). © 2011 Cambridge University Press.


Bish D.,Indiana University | Blake D.,NASA | Vaniman D.,Planetary Science Institute | Sarrazin P.,inXitu, Inc. | And 15 more authors.
IUCrJ | Year: 2014

The Mars Science Laboratory landed in Gale crater on Mars in August 2012, and the Curiosity rover then began field studies on its drive toward Mount Sharp, a central peak made of ancient sediments. CheMin is one of ten instruments on or inside the rover, all designed to provide detailed information on the rocks, soils and atmosphere in this region. CheMin is a miniaturized X-ray diffraction/X-ray fluorescence (XRD/XRF) instrument that uses transmission geometry with an energy-discriminating CCD detector. CheMin uses onboard standards for XRD and XRF calibration, and beryl:quartz mixtures constitute the primary XRD standards. Four samples have been analysed by CheMin, namely a soil sample, two samples drilled from mudstones and a sample drilled from a sandstone. Rietveld and full-pattern analysis of the XRD data reveal a complex mineralogy, with contributions from parent igneous rocks, amorphous components and several minerals relating to aqueous alteration. In particular, the mudstone samples all contain one or more phyllosilicates consistent with alteration in liquid water. In addition to quantitative mineralogy, Rietveld refinements also provide unit-cell parameters for the major phases, which can be used to infer the chemical compositions of individual minerals and, by difference, the composition of the amorphous component.


PubMed | Indiana University, French National Center for Scientific Research, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Hawaii at Manoa and 7 more.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: IUCrJ | Year: 2014

The Mars Science Laboratory landed in Gale crater on Mars in August 2012, and the Curiosity rover then began field studies on its drive toward Mount Sharp, a central peak made of ancient sediments. CheMin is one of ten instruments on or inside the rover, all designed to provide detailed information on the rocks, soils and atmosphere in this region. CheMin is a miniaturized X-ray diffraction/X-ray fluorescence (XRD/XRF) instrument that uses transmission geometry with an energy-discriminating CCD detector. CheMin uses onboard standards for XRD and XRF calibration, and beryl:quartz mixtures constitute the primary XRD standards. Four samples have been analysed by CheMin, namely a soil sample, two samples drilled from mudstones and a sample drilled from a sandstone. Rietveld and full-pattern analysis of the XRD data reveal a complex mineralogy, with contributions from parent igneous rocks, amorphous components and several minerals relating to aqueous alteration. In particular, the mudstone samples all contain one or more phyllosilicates consistent with alteration in liquid water. In addition to quantitative mineralogy, Rietveld refinements also provide unit-cell parameters for the major phases, which can be used to infer the chemical compositions of individual minerals and, by difference, the composition of the amorphous component.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 599.98K | Year: 2010

We propose to develop LUNA, a compact and lightweight X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) / X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) instrument for mineralogical analysis of regolith, rock samples and dust, in lunar surface exploration. LUNA is based from the concept of CheMin, the XRD/XRF instrument of MSL, but is redesigned to provide a more compact unit at much reduced costs. Many details of LUNA derive from the designs of a small portable XRD/XRF instruments developed and marketed by inXitu. Bringing LUNA to TRL 6-7 is possible within the scope of this Phase II because key components have been or are being developed. Phase 2 addresses the missing critical subsystems: a low-cost flight-qualifiable X-ray CCD, and flight-qualifiable electronics to drive the detector and control the instrument. LUNA is not frozen in a particular geometry or mechanical implementation, it is meant to be flexible to answer the specific needs of any lunar mission. Transmission or reflection geometries are possible as demonstrated by inXitu's commercial instruments. Phase 2 will demonstrate a reflection version of LUNA operating under vacuum. This work leverages on the extensive experience of the PI and the company with XRD-XRF instrumentation in terrestrial and planetary applications.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.28K | Year: 2009

We propose to develop a compact and lightweight X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) / X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) instrument for analysis of mineralogical composition of regolith, rock samples and dust, in lunar surface exploration. The instrument inherits from the general concept of CheMin, the XRD/XRF instrument of MSL, but is entirely redesigned to provide a more compact and lightweight unit, and reduced costs. Many implementation details of the proposed instrument will inherit from the design of a small portable XRD/XRF instruments developed and marketed by inXitu, Inc. and a robotic instrument derived from this design. The objective of this proposal is to bring this development to a high TRL of 6 to 7, to enable fast and cost effective development of subsequent flight systems. A high TRL target is possible within the scope of an SBIR Phase I + II because several key technological developments required for this objective have been –or are being- addressed by the company through separate sources of funding. Furthermore, the proposed work leverages the extensive experience of the PI and the company with this type of instrumentation, in both terrestrial and planetary applications.

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