Early spacecraft missions to Mars, including the Marnier and Viking orbiters and landers revealed a morphologically and compositionally diverse landscape that reshaped widely held views of Mars. More recent spacecraft including Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Mars Exploration Rovers have further refined, enhanced, and diversified our understanding of Mars. In this dissertation, I take a multiple-path approach to planetary and Mars science including data analysis and instrument development. First, I present several tools necessary to effectively use new, complex datasets by highlighting unique and innovative data processing techniques that allow for the regional to global scale comparison of multiple datasets. Second, I present three studies that characterize several processes on early Mars, where I identify a regional, compositionally distinct, in situ, stratigraphically significant layer in Ganges and Eos Chasmata that formed early in martian history. This layer represents a unique period in martian history where primitive mantle materials were emplaced over large sections of the martian surface. While I originally characterized this layer as an effusive lava flow, based on the newly identified regional or global extent of this layer, I find the only likely scenario for its emplacement is the ejecta deposit of the Borealis Basin forming impact event. I also re-examine high thermal inertia, flat-floored craters identified in Viking data and conclude they are typically more mafic than the surrounding plains and were likely infilled by primitive volcanic materials during, or shortly after the Late Heavy Bombardment. Furthermore, the only plausible source for these magmas is directly related to the impact process, where mantle decompression melting occurs as result of the removal of overlying material by the impactor. Finally, I developed a new laboratory microscopic emission and reflectance spectrometer designed to help improve the interpretation of current remote sensing or in situ data from planetary bodies. I present the design, implementation, calibration, system performance, and preliminary results of this instrument. This instrument is a strong candidate for the next generation in situ rover instruments designed to definitively assess sample mineralogy and petrology while preserving geologic context.