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Surface mineralogy and geochemistry of Mars are key to characterizing geological processes on ancient and modern Mars. Mineralogical and geochemical measurements from Mars show that the ancient surface was altered by liquid water. The types of minerals and geochemical trends observed on the surface can help determine the characteristics of these ancient aqueous environments and whether or not they would have been habitable to microbial life. The goal of this research is to reconstruct the history of liquid water on Mars through mineralogical and geochemical measurements of the martian surface and analog materials. These analog materials can be synthesized in the laboratory or collected from Mars analog sites on Earth. Studies of phyllosilicate, iron oxide, sulfate, and carbonate minerals and amorphous or poorly crystalline phases are encouraged. Studies of mineral sorting and segregation in fluviolacustrine and aeolian environments on Earth as a means to interpret the mineralogy of martian surface deposits are also of great interest.
Analytical instruments available at JSC include X-ray diffraction, infrared spectroscopy, thermal and evolved gas analysis, laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, ion chromatography, scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and electron microprobe. JSC also has test bed instruments for the CheMin X-ray diffractometer on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument on Curiosity, the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA) on Phoenix, ChemCam on Curiosity, and the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and data collected on these instruments are directly comparable to those collected on Mars. Scientists with experience analyzing weathering products or amorphous materials using Synchrotron techniques are also encouraged to apply.