Schwenzer, S. P.; Abramov, O.; Allen, C. C.; Clifford, S.; Filiberto, J.; Kring, D. A.; Lasue, J.; McGovern, P. J.; Newsom, H. E.; Treiman, A. H. and Wittmann, A.
The importance of (Noachian) impact craters as windows to the subsurface and as potential hosts of life.
Impact craters are important targets for Mars exploration, especially craters of ancient (Noachian) age, which record conditions on Early Mars. They can be used as natural “drill holes” or excavation pits into the subsurface, and so can provide information and samples that would otherwise be inaccessible (e.g., Moore 1977). Impact cratering was the dominant geological process on Early Mars and on the contemporary Earth and Moon (Hartmann and Neukum 2001); investigation of craters will inform our understanding of this geologic process and its effects. Impact craters, early in Mars’ history, disturbed and heated its water-bearing crust, and likely initiated long-lived hydrothermal systems (Newsom 1980, Newsom et al. 2001; Abramov and Kring 2005), which created some clement environments for life (Kring 2000a). Also, impact-heat generated lakes may have formed (Newsom et al. 1996). Thus, Noachian impact craters are important exploration targets, providing subsurface access, data on crucial geological processes, and warm, water-rich environments possibly conducive to life.
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