Skip to Content

Special Lecture: The CheMin X-ray Diffraction instrument: Design, development and mineralogical results from its 5-year deployment on the Mars Science Laboratory Rover Curiosity

David Blake, Exobiology Branch, NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
3:00-4:00 PM
2548 C.C. Little Building Map
NASA’s CheMin instrument, the first X-ray Diffractometer flown in space, has been operating on Mars for five years. CheMin was first to establish the quantitative mineralogy of the Mars global soil. The instrument was next used to determine the mineralogy of a 3.7 billion year old lacustrine mudstone, a result that, together with findings from other instruments on the MSL Curiosity rover, documented the first habitable environment found on another planet. The mineralogy of this mudstone from an ancient playa lake was also used to derive the maximum concentration of CO2 in the early Mars atmosphere, a surprisingly low value that calls into question the current theory that CO2 greenhouse warming was responsible for the warm and wet environment of early Mars. CheMin identified the mineral tridymite, indicative of silica-rich volcanism, in mudstones of the Murray formation on Mt. Sharp. This discovery challenges the paradigm of Mars as a basaltic planet and ushers in a new chapter of comparative terrestrial planetology. CheMin is now being used to systematically sample the sedimentary layers that comprise the lower strata of Mt. Sharp, a 5,000 meter high mound of sediments laid down in what was once a crater lake, characterizing isochemical sediments that through their changing mineralogy, document the oxidation and drying out of Mars in early Hesperian time. CheMin’s design and development, from an initial concept in 1991 to acceptance for flight in 2004 will also be described.
Building: C.C. Little Building
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Lecture
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Earth and Environmental Sciences