Exploring Martian impact craters: why they are important for the search for life

Schwenzer, S. P.; Abramov, O.; Allen, C. C.; Clifford, S.; Filiberto, J.; Kring, D. A.; Lasue, J.; MvGovern, P. J.; Newsom, H. E.; Treiman, A. H.; Vaniman, D. T.; Wiens, R. C. and Wittmann, A. (2010). Exploring Martian impact craters: why they are important for the search for life. In: Astrobiology Science Conference 2010, 26-29 Apr 2010, League City, TX, USA.

URL: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/abscicon2010/pdf/...


Fluvial features and evidence for aqueous alteration indicate that Mars was wet, at least partially and/or periodically, in the Noachian. Also, impact cratering appears to have been the dominant geological process during that epoch. Thus, investigation of Noachian craters will further our understanding of this geologic process, its effects on the water-bearing Martian crust, and any life that may have been present at the time. Impact events disturbed and heated the water- and/or ice-bearing crust, likely initiated long-lived hydrothermal systems, and formed crater lakes, creating environments suitable for life. Thus, Noachian impact craters are particularly important exploration targets because they provide a window into warm, water-rich environments of the past which were possibly conducive to life. In addition to the presence of lake deposits, assessment of the presence of hydrothermal deposits in the walls, floors and uplifts of craters is important in the search for life on Mars. Impact craters are also important for astrobiological exploration in other ways. For example, smaller craters can be used as natural excavation pits, and so can provide information and samples that would otherwise be inaccessible. In addition, larger (> ~75 km) craters can excavate material from a potentially habitable region, even on present-day Mars, located beneath a >5-km deep cryosphere.

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