Geological Sciences 287: The Geological Evolution of Mars
Academic Year 1998-1999, Semester II
N Hour (3:00-5:20 PM Wednesdays, and other arranged times)
Lincoln Field 209
Course outline: This semester, Planetary Evolution will focus on several
significant aspects of the geological evolution of Mars. We will address
three fundamental questions (see below), explore how data being returned
from present missions can address these questions, and think about the
implications of these questions for the goals and objectives of future Mars
exploration, particularly the issue of site selection for sample return
missions. The first class meeting is Wednesday, January 27th at N hour
(3:00-5:20 PM). Those not enrolled who would like to attend and
participate are welcome.
I. Can a one-plume convection model account for the observed tectonic
history of Tharsis?
Class 1: Overview of Tharsis stress and tectonics:
Class 2: Styles and history of Tharsis tectonics.
Class 3: One-plume convection models for Tharsis.
II. What is the age of the polar caps and have they they changed
significantly with time?
Class 1: Overview of North and South polar caps and related deposits.
Class 2: Ages of the polar caps and the origin(s) of their related features.
Class 3: Role of the polar caps in the volatile budget of Mars.
III. Were there ever large-scale standing bodies of water on Mars (lakes,
Class 1: Overview of hypotheses for large-scale standing bodies of water.
Class 2: Sources of water and constraints from chronology.
Class 3: Evolution of standing bodies of water under martian conditions.
IV. Where should we land on Mars to address the questions raised above and
the possible presence of life?
In this class, we will use the established programmatic guidelines
and engineering constraints for landing site selection as a basis to
consider locations of sites for optimal scientific return. Each student
will prepare an LPSC-type abstract describing their recommendations for a
landing site, and a sample collection strategy for a sample return mission.
In the class, each student will present their results to a review panel
consisting of faculty and other knowledgable individuals from Brown and
The course will begin with a first class on the general problems
outlined above and discussion of the identification of specific issues to
be addressed. The last class will consist of LPSC-type presentations of
the results of individual papers prepared as part of the course.
Course grades will be based on class presentations (2 per
semester), landing site selection abstract and presentation, class
participation, and the preparation of a GRL-like paper describing original
research on a scientific problem related to the above topics and using Mars
Global Surveyor and related data. Paper topics are due March 26th in the
form of a one-page proposal, and papers are due April 30th.
Readings and related material will be located in a box in Lincoln