In situ detection of boron by ChemCam on Mars

Gasada, Patrick J.; Haldemann, Ethan B.; Wiens, Roger C.; Rapin, William; Bristow, Thomas F.; Bridges, John C.; Schwenzer, Susanne P.; Clark, Benton; Herkenhoff, Kenneth; Frydenvang, Jens; Lanza, Nina L.; Maurice, Sylvestre; Clegg, Samuel; Delapp, Dorothea M.; Sanford, Veronica L.; Bodine, Madeleine R. and McInroy, Rhonda (2017). In situ detection of boron by ChemCam on Mars. Geophysical Research Letters, 44(17) pp. 8739–8748.



We report the first in situ detection of boron on Mars. Boron has been detected in Gale crater at levels <0.05 wt % B by the NASA Curiosity rover ChemCam instrument in calcium-sulfate-filled fractures, which formed in a late-stage groundwater circulating mainly in phyllosilicate-rich bedrock interpreted as lacustrine in origin. We consider two main groundwater-driven hypotheses to explain the presence of boron in the veins: leaching of borates out of bedrock or the redistribution of borate by dissolution of borate-bearing evaporite deposits. Our results suggest that an evaporation mechanism is most likely, implying that Gale groundwaters were mildly alkaline. On Earth, boron may be a necessary component for the origin of life; on Mars, its presence suggests that subsurface groundwater conditions could have supported prebiotic chemical reactions if organics were also present and provides additional support for the past habitability of Gale crater.

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