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Mark Claire
"The Phoenix Lander and Martian Salts"
January 17, 2011

In December 2008, NASA's Phoenix Lander touched down near the edge of the Martian northern polar ice cap. Nestled amongst multiple experiments to measure atmospheric composition and image the surface was a robotic arm which was used to scoop up chunks of the Martian soil and deliver them to a series of chemical analyzers. The discovery of perchlorate (ClO4) as the dominant salt in the Martian soil ranks among the most surprising planetary science discovery of the previous decade.

In this presentation, Mark Claire will talk about why salts are interesting to planetary scientists and astrobiologists, and will discuss ongoing attempts to understand the Phoenix results. In the context of understanding Mars, we will focus our discussion on one of the most Mars-like places on Earth - Chile's Atacama desert. Our interdisciplinary conversation will include modeling of the atmospheric chemistry above the Atacama, ground truth obtained during a 3 week field excursion in May 2010, and will be interspersed with thoughts on politics, fertilizer, and pollution.

Mark Claire is a NASA/NAI Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Washington.







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