22-EPN3-024: VIS-NIR and Raman measurement of clays and evaporitic products as analogs of Oxia Planum in the framework of the Rosalind Franklin rover mission
Visit by Marco Ferrari and Mauro Ciarniello (INAF-IAPS, Italy) to TA1.5 Makgadikgadi Salt Pans (Botswana).
Dates of visit: 11-17 September 2023
This project aimed at a sampling campaign of evaporite and sedimentary products (e.g., sulfates, clays) and deposits showing evidence of biosignatures in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana. Samples taken from this location will be used for VIS-NIR and Raman spectroscopy measurements in the context of the future ExoMars mission.
To achieve this, the team visited 10 different sites in the Makgadikgadi Pan area, distributed across both the Ntwentwe Pan and Sue Pan during the visit. They collected 35 samples in different forms, both loose sediments with grain sizes varying from clays to sand, and cohesive sediments such as the salt crusts that characterise the top surface of the Pan. They also collected some solid rock blocks with sizes suitable for the laboratory setup of the Ma_MISS (Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies) instrument (i.e. blocks with a maximum size of 10x10x10 cm), to perform drilling operations and spectroscopic measurements in the wall of the borehole.
The campaign aimed to confirm the ability of the Ma_MISS instrument to detect spectral signatures of organic substances in geological samples containing biosignatures. With the spectroscopic data obtained in the laboratory on the collected samples, the team aims to build a spectral database that will be useful to the scientific community.
These activities on terrestrial analogues have proven useful for understanding life in extreme conditions and how these can be preserved in the form of biosignatures and detected by the scientific instruments that will be on board future missions to Mars. In addition, this work will help to acquire crucial preparation for the exploitation and interpretation of the scientific data that the Ma_MISS instrument will provide during the active phase of the mission.
Read the full scientific report with kind permission by Marco Ferrari and Mauro Ciarniello.