The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument on the Curiosity rover has detected evidence of oxychlorine compounds (i.e., perchlorates and chlorates) in Gale crater, which has implications for past habitability, diagenesis, aqueous processes, interpretation of in situ organic analyses, understanding the martian chlorine cycle, and hazards and resources for future human exploration. Pure oxychlorines and mixtures of oxychlorines with Mars-analog phases have been analyzed for their oxygen (O2 ) and hydrogen chloride (HCl) releases on SAM laboratory analog instruments in order to constrain which phases are present in Gale crater. These studies demonstrated that oxychlorines evolve O2 releases with peaks between ~200 and 600◦ C, although the thermal decomposition temperatures and the amount of evolved O2 decrease when iron phases are present in the sample. Mg and Fe oxychlorines decompose into oxides and release HCl between ~200 and 542◦ C. Ca, Na, and K oxychlorines thermally decompose into chlorides and do not evolve HCl by themselves. However, the chlorides (original or from oxychlorine decomposition) can react with water-evolving phases (e.g., phyllosilicates) in the sample and evolve HCl within the temperature range of SAM (<~870◦ C). These laboratory analog studies support that the SAM detection of oxychlorine phases is consistent with the presence of Mg, Ca, Na, and K perchlorate and/or chlorate along with possible contributions from adsorbed oxychlorines in Gale crater samples.
- Curiosity Gale crater
- Evolved gas analysis
- Sample Analysis at Mars
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology