The Origins of Martian Water What We Can Learn from Meteorites

Lee Baker, Ian A. Franchi and Ian P. Wright

In 1877 telescopic observations of apparent lines on the Martian surface were interpreted by Giovanni Schiaparelli as resembling channels. Others, notably Percival Lowell, soon interpreted these as having been made by intelligent life. Today, the notion of canals and advanced forms of life have long since been dispelled by technological improvements in optical equipment and the advent of space missions. Yet the most recent images provided by Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) continue to show channels apparently cut by water. The question is no longer whether or not water is or was present, but how much there is, where did it originate and what does this mean for the possible evolution of life forms on the planet.

Since the 1980s the general acceptance that a group of meteorites, already at that time sitting in collections around the world, originated on Mars has provided an additional means of assessing the volume and provenance of water on Mars. Wide ranging geochemical investigations of these meteorites have provided a wealth of information about their age, composition and formation. More recently, isotopic analyses of water extracted from hydrated minerals in a few of these Martian meteorites, which now number about 30, have been completed. The results of these studies is the focus of this first chapter and will be used to help elucidate both the Martian water inventory and its origins.

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