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

December 1, 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.

Publication Year 2011
Title Utah's geologic and geomorphic analogs to Mars—An overview for planetary exploration
DOI 10.1130/2011.2483(22)
Authors Marjorie A. Chan, Kathleen Nicoll, Jens Ormö, Chris Okubo, Goro Komatsu
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70201979
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Astrogeology Science Center