Synthesis of a spinifex-textured basalt as an analog to Gusev crater basalts, Mars

Abstract : Analyses by the Mars Exploration Rover (MER), Spirit, of Martian basalts from Gusev crater show that they are chemically very different from terrestrial basalts, being characterized in particular by high Mg- and Fe-contents. To provide suitable analog basalts for the International Space Analogue Rockstore (ISAR), a collection of analog rocks and minerals for preparing in situ space missions, especially, the upcoming Mars mission MSL- 2011 and the future international Mars-2018 mission, it is necessary to synthesize Martian basalts. The aim of this study was therefore to synthesize Martian basalt analogs to the Gusev crater basalts, based on the geochemical data from the MER rover Spirit. We present the results of two experiments, one producing a quench-cooled basalt (<1 h) and one producing a more slowly cooled basalt (1 day). Pyroxene and olivine textures produced in the more slowly cooled basalt were surprisingly similar to spinifex textures in komatiites, a volcanic rock type very common on the early Earth. These kinds of ultramafic rocks and their associated alteration products may have important astrobiological implications when associated with aqueous environments. Such rocks could provide habitats for chemolithotrophic microorganisms, while the glass and phyllosilicate derivatives can fix organic compounds.
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Nicolas Bost, Francès Westall, Fabrice Gaillard, Claire Ramboz, Frédéric Foucher. Synthesis of a spinifex-textured basalt as an analog to Gusev crater basalts, Mars. Meteoritics and Planetary Science, Wiley, 2012, 47 (5), pp.820-831. ⟨10.1111/j.1945-5100.2012.01355.x⟩. ⟨insu-00697255⟩

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