Introduction to Volatiles in the Martian Crust

Filiberto, Justin and Schwenzer, Susanne P. (2018). Introduction to Volatiles in the Martian Crust. In: Filiberto, Justin and Schwenzer, Susanne P. eds. Volatiles in the Martian Crust. Elsevier, pp. 1–12.



Society has long looked up at the sky to wonder if we are alone in the Solar System or the universe. Of the planetary bodies near the Earth, Mars has always inspired humankind’s imagination, and owing to its close proximity to Earth attracted scientific investigations. Centuries of observation have seen enthusiasm for the planet wax and wane as evidence seemed to prove or disprove habitable conditions on the planet. As telescopes became better, observers captured their views of the planet on maps and drawings. One of the famous and far reaching maps was drawn during the Mars opposition of 1877 by Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli (18351910). It sparked a wide interest and discussion among contemporary scholars, finally leading to Lowell’s interpretation and book, “Mars, the Abode of Life.” Many other observers drew similar features at similar places on Mars, making it likely for them to be actual Martian features (see, e.g., Sagan and Pollack, 1966; Jones, 2008 for reviews). However, their linear nature was not confirmed by many, a controversy that led Sagan and Pollack (1966, p. 117) to conclude that those interpretational discrepancies “have convinced many that the canals of Mars are a psychophysiological rather than an astronomical problem.” However, like many scientific controversies, this also sparked new methods and thinking as it led to pioneering thoughts as to the ways in which understanding of geologic processes on Earth could be used to understand observations on Mars. In fact, Peal (1893) wrote, “The remarkable feature of the whole case seems to be that so far there has been little or no reference to terrestrial experience when discussing the problem of the distribution of land and water on Mars. The great recent geological discoveries bearing on the subject appear to have been overlooked, […].” Looking at Earth analogs has, in fact, become an integral tool for the advancement of our understanding of Martian processes and environmental conditions.

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