Lakes on Mars

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Nathalie A. Cabrol, Edmond A. Grin
Elsevier, Sep 15, 2010 - Science - 410 pages
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On Earth, lakes provide favorable environments for the development of life and its preservation as fossils. They are extremely sensitive to climate fluctuations and to conditions within their watersheds. As such, lakes are unique markers of the impact of environmental changes. Past and current missions have now demonstrated that water once flowed at the surface of Mars early in its history. Evidence of ancient ponding has been uncovered at scales ranging from a few kilometers to possibly that of the Arctic ocean. Whether life existed on Mars is still unknown; upcoming missions may find critical evidence to address this question in ancient lakebeds as clues about Mars’ climate evolution and its habitability potential are still preserved in their sedimentary record.

Lakes on Mars is the first review on this subject. It is written by leading planetary scientists who have dedicated their careers to searching and exploring the questions of water, lakes, and oceans on Mars through their involvement in planetary exploration, and the analysis of orbital and ground data beginning with Viking up to the most recent missions. In thirteen chapters, Lakes on Mars critically discusses new data and explores the role that water played in the evolution of the surface of Mars, the past hydrological provinces of the planet, the possibility of heated lake habitats through enhanced geothermal flux associated with volcanic activity and impact cratering. The book also explores alternate hypotheses to explain the geological record. Topographic, morphologic, stratigraphic, and mineralogic evidence are presented that suggest successions of ancient lake environments in Valles Marineris and Hellas. The existence of large lakes and/or small oceans in Elysium and the Northern Plains is supported both by the global distribution of deltaic deposits and by equipotential surfaces that may reflect their past margins. Whether those environments were conducive to life has yet to be demonstrated but from comparison with our planet, their sedimentary deposits may provide the best opportunity to find its record, if any. The final chapters explore the impact of climate variability on declining lake habitats in one of the closest terrestrial analogs to Mars at the Noachian/Hesperian transition, identify the geologic, morphologic and mineralogic signatures of ancient lakes to be searched for on Mars, and present the case for landing the Mars Science Laboratory mission in such an environment.

  • First review on the subject by worldwide leading authorities in the field
  • New studies with most recent data, new images, figures, and maps
  • Most recent results from research in terrestrial analogs
 

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Contents

four decades of exploration
1
2 Acquisition and history of water on Mars
31
physiographic controls ondrainage and ponding
69
4 Heated lakes on Mars
91
5 Lakes in Valles Marineris
111
6 Episodic ponding and outburst flooding associated with chaoticterrains in Valles Marineris
163
7 Evidence for ancient lakes in the Hellas region
195
implications for a globalhydrosphere
223
A Martian oceanic basin?
249
10 The Western Elysium Planitia Paleolake
275
11 The sedimentary record of modern and ancient dry lakes
307
12 Aqueous depositional settings in Holden crater Mars
323
13 Dynamics of declining lake habitat in changing climate
347
Author Index
371
Subject Index
381
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About the author (2010)

Cabrol is the Principal Investigator of the SETI Institute team that was selected by the NASA Astrobiology Institute in October 2014 to lead a 5-year project entitled: Changing Planetary Environments and the Fingerprints of Life. See: https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/nai/teams/can-7/seti/ The project is about the search for habitability and life on Mars leading to the Mars 2020 mission. Additionally, as of August 7th 2015, Cabrol became the Director of the Carl Sagan Center at the SETI Institute, leading the science for multidisciplinary research scientists who search for life beyond Earth from prebiotic chemistry, to the exploration of the Solar System, the exoplanets, and the search for technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations.

Grin has an academic background in hydrogeology, and for 30 years worked on dam and hydropower projects. His familiarity with the characteristics of lakes and rivers on Earth makes him especially valuable when it comes to looking for similar features on Mars, where NASA’s exploration strategy has been to “follow the water. Grin, together with his wife, Cabrol, championed Gusev crater - an apparent lake basin - as the landing site for the Spirit rover. A new three-year project in which Grin is involved, called “Life in the Atacama , will demonstrate that autonomous robot rovers can reliably detect primitive microorganisms. The rovers will be field tested in Chile’s Atacama desert, an earthly analog for the landscapes of Mars.

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