Exploring Martian Habitability
INTRODUCTION—In the search for organic remnants of past life, it is enormously helpful to have a paradigm to guide exploration. This begins with assessing habitability: Was the former environment supportive of life? If so, was it also conducive to preservation of organism remains, specifically large organic molecules? Five articles presented in the 24 January edition of Science describe the detection at Gale crater of a system of ancient environments that would have been habitable by chemoautotrophic microorganisms. A sixth article details a more ancient and also potentially habitable environment detected in Noachian age (>~3.7 billion years) rocks at Meridiani Planum. A seventh article describes the present radiation environment on the surface of Mars at Gale crater.
Geochronology measurements constrain the age of a mudstone on Mars and indicate how and when it got exposed to the surface.
Curiosity at Gale Crater
INTRODUCTION—The 6 August 2012 arrival of the curiosity rover on the surface of Mars delivered the most technically advanced geochemistry laboratory ever sent to the surface of another planet. Its 10 instruments were commissioned for operations and were tested on a diverse set of materials, including rocks, soils, and the atmosphere, during the first 100 martian days (sols) of the mission. The five articles presented in full in the online edition of Science describe the mission’s initial results, in which Curiosity’s full laboratory capability was used.
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