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Utah's geologic and geomorphic analogs to Mars—An overview for planetary exploration

By
Marjorie A. Chan
Marjorie A. Chan
1 Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, 115 South 1460 East, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA
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Kathleen Nicoll
Kathleen Nicoll
2 Department of Geography, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA
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Jens Ormö
Jens Ormö
3 Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA), Carretera de Torrejón a Ajalvir, km 4, 28850 Torrejón de Ardoz, Spain
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Chris Okubo
Chris Okubo
4 U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, Arizona 86001, USA
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Goro Komatsu
Goro Komatsu
5 International Research School of Planetary Sciences, Università d'Annunzio, Viale Pindaro 42, 65127 Pescara, Italy
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Published:
December 01, 2011

Utah offers spectacular geologic features and valuable analog environments and processes for Mars studies. Horizontal strata of the Colorado Plateau are analogous to Mars because the overprint of plate tectonics is minimal, yet the effects of strong ground motion from earthquakes or impacts are preserved in the sedimentary record. The close proximity of analog environments and lack of vegetative cover are advantages for field and remote-sensing studies. Dry, desert climate and modern wind processes of Utah are comparable to Mars and its current surface. Analogs in Utah include eolian, sabkha and saline bodies, glacial, lacustrine, spring, alluvial, fluvial, delta, and outflow channel depositional environments, as well as volcanic landforms and impact craters. Analogous secondary processes producing modification features include: diagenetic concretions, weathering and soils, sinkholes, sapping, knobs and pinnacles, crusts and varnish, and patterned grounds. Utah's physical and chemical environments are analogous to conditions on Mars where water existed and could support microorganisms. The development of Mars includes: ancient and modern depositional records, burial and diagenesis, uplift and tectonic alteration, and modern sculpting or weathering of the surface exposures. Recent satellite images are providing unprecedented details that rival the outcrop scale. Analogs in Utah are prime field localities that can be utilized in planning future robotic and human missions to Mars, and for teaching the next generation of planetary explorers.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

Analogs for Planetary Exploration

W. Brent Garry
W. Brent Garry
Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona, USA
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Jacob E. Bleacher
Jacob E. Bleacher
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Planetary Geodynamics Lab, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
483
ISBN print:
9780813724836
Publication date:
December 01, 2011

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