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Martian Ice- and Water-Formed Landscapes, and Terrestrial chemical, mineralogical, and morphological analogs

Monday, January 24, 2005
Jeff
Kargel (U.S. Geological Survey)

Recent space mission findings have elucidated new details of Martian cryospheric and aqueous processes. In the years preceding the Opportunity rover mission's tantalizing evidence of aqueous chemical sedimentation and alteration processes, orbiting instruments have identified the global distribution of shallow ground ice, mapped thousands of features formed by glacier and permafrost ice and by melting ice, and shown details of a planet whose surface topographic irregularities have been eroded and infilled or gouged out partly by flowing water and ice. The global distribution of such landforms clearly indicates a role of climate in controlling the presence and geologic activity of ice and water. Many details differ from what we see on Earth among these H2O-affected terrains, but many details and in some places the overarching picture is strikingly familiar to Earth-trained geologists. We are better able than ever before to take numerous observations and integrate them into a picture of how Mars operates as a planet, how its climate and hydrogeologic processes have varied through time, and how future astronauts might take advantage of resources present as ice and aqueous deposits so as to extend the explorations and develop a new civilization.

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