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Evolution of Mars

Final Report Summary - E-MARS (Evolution of Mars)

e-Mars project is dedicated to geologic record of Mars planet. This record is in open access thanks to the increasing volume of data acquired by orbiters characterizing the Martian surface. The goal of e-Mars was the unprecedented approach to combine topographic data, imagery data in diverse spectral domain and hyperspectral data from multiple orbiter captors to study the evolution of Mars and to propose relevant landing sites for next in situ missions. To do so, the project developed a web service that allows the automatic management of this large variety of orbital data associated to an information system and a geodatabase (emars.univ-lyon1.fr/MarsSI/). This facility has more than 100 regular worldwide users at the end of the project. This facility has a consolidated future as the French research agency hired a permanent engineer to manage and develop the facility beyond the ERC project.
Thanks to all these methodological developments, the ERC team has benefited of the best conditions to exploit the Martian orbital data. E-Mars project focused on three main scientific themes: the composition of the Martian crust, the research of possible habitable places and the current geological processes. All the results obtained during the project have revealed that Mars geological evolution has been more diverse in space and time than previously thought in term of geological processes but also in term of habitable conditions. E-Mars team showed that the Martian crust is not homogenous and shows lateral discontinuities attesting of the complex primitive crustal processes. The analyses of the mineralogy have highlighted a temporal evolution of the crust composition between Noachian time and Hesperian times attesting once again of the complex history of the martian crust formation and evolution. Indices of alteration of the primitive martian crust have been studied in detail by e-Mars Team in particular by a PhD dedicated to this subject. The results have revealed ancestral deep hydrothermal systems with thermodynamic conditions highly suitable for life emergence (carbonation and serpentinization). The project also focused on habitable places characterizing the geological context of phyllosilicate bearing plains like in Mawrth Vallis region of Mars and near Valles Marineris demonstrating the high potential of these places for exobiology investigations. In addition, investigation of phyllosilicates rich sediments around the planet suggested that their formation is related to global climatic conditions. These deposits are precious records of the past habitable conditions of Mars and are so primary targets for future in situ exploration. The project also used the crater density to return temporal constraints of these habitable conditions and decipher their evolution. Innovative inverse approaches on impact crater densities have shown that the water-related erosion has decreased with time from Noachian times to current times. The project also analyzed the effect of secondary cratering on the robustness of crater dating method and a potential source of Martian meteorites has even been identified suggesting a link between rocks with well constrained ages and crater densities.
Thanks to the ability to combine rapidly a large amount of orbital data, e-Mars team has been highly involved in the propositions of landing sites for both Exomars (ESA/Roskcosmos) and Mars2020 (Nasa) mission. The sites of Coprates Chasma, Mawrth Vallis and Melas Chasma have been proposed for Mars2020 mission. Both Mawrth Vallis and Melas Chasma have been selected in the top 8 sites selected in 2016. Also, eMars team innovated proposing an unknown location so far to land ExoMars applying innovative data combination techniques: Oxia Planum. Oxia planum has been selected in 2016 as the primary landing site for a launch in 2018 and has been selected in 2017 as the two finale sites for a launch in 2020.
The ERC project has contributed to settle a planetary science team in the host institution by first promoting the PI as professor and by opening two permanent positions at the end of the project: one engineer and one assistant professor.