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Mineralogy of Mars
Bell III, James F. Department of Astronomy, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
- Telescopic measurements
- First measurements from the surface
- Mineralogy from orbit
- Roving mineralogist robots
- Meteorites from Mars
- Implications for the history of Mars
- Future measurements
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Planetary geologists and geochemists are extremely interested in finding out what specific kinds of elements and minerals occur on the surface of Mars, because, just like on Earth, rocks and minerals provide clues about the past climate and history of a planetary surface. Mars today is a very cold, dry, and (as far as we know) lifeless world where wind is the most active process modifying the surface. However, there is evidence from robotic spacecraft images and other measurements that liquid water once flowed on Mars, and that the climate may have been much more Earth-like in the distant past. If Mars really was warmer and wetter and more like the Earth, could life have formed or evolved there as it has on Earth? And how could the climate have changed so dramatically to become as cold and dry as it is today? These are the fundamental questions that planetary scientists are trying to answer. Many believe that the key to solving this mystery is recorded in the composition and mineralogy of the planet's rocks and soils.
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