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?

II. What is the age of the polar caps and have they they changed significantly with time?
III. Were there ever large-scale standing bodies of water on Mars (lakes, seas, oceans)?
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 JPL.

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 Field 105.