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Ponds, flows, and ejecta of impact cratering and volcanism: a remote sensing perspective of a dynamic Moon

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Both volcanism and impact cratering produce ejecta and associated deposits incorporating a molten rock component. While the heat sources are different (exogenous vs. endogenous), the end results are landforms with

Both volcanism and impact cratering produce ejecta and associated deposits incorporating a molten rock component. While the heat sources are different (exogenous vs. endogenous), the end results are landforms with similar morphologies including ponds and flows of impact melt and lava around the central crater. Ejecta from both impact and volcanic craters can also include a high percentage of melted rock. Using Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Narrow Angle Camera (LROC NAC) images, crucial details of these landforms are finally revealed, suggesting a much more dynamic Moon than is generally appreciated. Impact melt ponds and flows at craters as small as several hundred meters in diameter provide empirical evidence of abundant melting during the impact cratering process (much more than was previously thought), and this melt is mobile on the lunar surface for a significant time before solidifying. Enhanced melt deposit occurrences in the lunar highlands (compared to the mare) suggest that porosity, target composition, and pre-existing topography influence melt production and distribution. Comparatively deep impact craters formed in young melt deposits connote a relatively rapid evolution of materials on the lunar surface. On the other end of the spectrum, volcanic eruptions have produced the vast, plains-style mare basalts. However, little was previously known about the details of small-area eruptions and proximal volcanic deposits due to a lack of resolution. High-resolution images reveal key insights into small volcanic cones (0.5-3 km in diameter) that resemble terrestrial cinder cones. The cones comprise inter-layered materials, spatter deposits, and lava flow breaches. The widespread occurrence of the cones in most nearside mare suggests that basaltic eruptions occur from multiple sources in each basin and/or that rootless eruptions are relatively common. Morphologies of small-area volcanic deposits indicate diversity in eruption behavior of lunar basaltic eruptions driven by magmatic volatiles. Finally, models of polar volatile behavior during impact-heating suggest that chemical alteration of minerals in the presence of liquid water is one possible outcome that was previously not thought possible on the Moon.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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Development and applications of a multispectral microscopic imager for the in situ exploration of planetary surfaces

Description

Future robotic and human missions to the Moon and Mars will need in situ capabilities to characterize the mineralogy of rocks and soils within a microtextural context. Such spatially-correlated information

Future robotic and human missions to the Moon and Mars will need in situ capabilities to characterize the mineralogy of rocks and soils within a microtextural context. Such spatially-correlated information is considered crucial for correct petrogenetic interpretations and will be key observations for assessing the potential for past habitability on Mars. These data will also enable the selection of the highest value samples for further analysis and potential caching for return to Earth. The Multispectral Microscopic Imager (MMI), similar to a geologist's hand lens, advances the capabilities of current microimagers by providing multispectral, microscale reflectance images of geological samples, where each image pixel is comprised of a 21-band spectrum ranging from 463 to 1735 nm. To better understand the capabilities of the MMI in future surface missions to the Moon and Mars, geological samples comprising a range of Mars-relevant analog environments as well as 18 lunar rocks and four soils, from the Apollo collection were analyzed with the MMI. Results indicate that the MMI images resolve the fine-scale microtextural features of samples, and provide important information to help constrain mineral composition. Spectral end-member mapping revealed the distribution of Fe-bearing minerals (silicates and oxides), along with the presence of hydrated minerals. In the case of the lunar samples, the MMI observations also revealed the presence of opaques, glasses, and in some cases, the effects of space weathering in samples. MMI-based petrogenetic interpretations compare favorably with laboratory observations (including VNIR spectroscopy, XRD, and thin section petrography) and previously published analyses in the literature (for the lunar samples). The MMI was also deployed as part of the 2010 ILSO-ISRU field test on the slopes of Mauna Kea, Hawaii and inside the GeoLab as part of the 2011 Desert RATS field test at the Black Point Lava Flow in northern Arizona to better assess the performance of the MMI under realistic field conditions (including daylight illumination) and mission constraints to support human exploration. The MMI successfully imaged rocks and soils in outcrops and samples under field conditions and mission operation scenarios, revealing the value of the MMI to support future rover and astronaut exploration of planetary surfaces.

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Date Created
  • 2012