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A search for habitable environments on Mars: a study of the martian surface composition through the analysis of the OMEGA/Mars Express dataset.


Is the origin and evolution of Life unique to the Earth or is it a common occurrence on planets when conditions suitable for Life are present? This is perhaps one of the most compelling questions of our time. It is also one that we can begin to answer through the exploration of Mars, and through the analysis of the dataset of OMEGA, the imaging spectrometer onboard the European spacecraft, Mars Express.

OMEGA is in Martian orbit since January 2004, and will observe, during the next two years, the whole planet with a spatial resolution of ~2 km and 5% of the planet with a spatial resolution of 300 m. Its spatial resolution is up to 100 times better than the last instrument observing Mars in the visible and near infrared, its spectral resolution is twice better, and its wavelength coverage is extended.

My goal is to identify those locations where water has played a major role in Martian history. My PhD was focused on the development of techniques for the rapid retrieval of information from OMEGA data. I developed a method of automatic band detection, and I adapted existing methods of analysis to the specific case of OMEGA data.

Tests of these methods were conclusive and are promising for the application on the OMEGA dataset. The Rio Tinto (Spain), has a mean pH of 2 and a high concentration of ferric iron in solution (up to 20 g.L-1). It has been proposed as a Martian analogue terrain. In this peculiar environment an incredible diversity of eukaryotes and prokaryotes exist.

The relationships which likely exist between the biota and the mineralogy have not been studied. Through this study we will define criteria to recognize sites analogue to the Rio Tinto in the OMEGA dataset.

The successor of OMEGA, the CRISM experiment will be launched in 2005 on board the NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. I will use my experience on OMEGA to prepare the data processing of CRISM. This experience will allow that my team in France work on these data in the future.

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