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SPS Seminar - The Geological context of the ExoMars rover landing site

Thursday, February 10, 2022 - 14:00 to 15:00

When:  Thursday 10th February at 14.00

Where:  Microsoft Teams - Online

Speaker:  Peter Fawdon (OU)

Hosted by: Alexander Barrett/Mark Fox-Powell


This talk will be about my work over the last 7 years at the Open University, working to constrain the geological context of the ExoMars landing site, and in so doing explore the geological history of ancient Mars.

In June 2023 the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Rover will land in Oxia Planum (OP) on Mars. The Mission’s main goal is to search for signs of past and present life. To do this, it will search for physical and chemical biosignatures in the near subsurface collecting samples to be analyzed by its onboard instrument suite. To achieve this goal the rover must go to a location that is the most conducive to the formation, concentration, preservation, and exposure of biosignatures. We need to understand if the environment in which the rocks were deposited were conducive to the formation of biosignatures and if the processes that formed those rocks, also potentially modifying them though time, are also conducive to the preservation of biosignatures. Furthermore, the ellipse of potential landing locations is large (~100 km), and the possible travers distance within the nominal mission is short (<5 km). So, we must also know where in the landing site different parts of this geological history are represented, to make efficient use of the time available in the mission in access the right place to drill.

Consequently, we must have a detailed understanding of the landing sites geological history and a map suitable for rover operation of the landing ellipse.


Peter has worked at the Open University since 2011, as a PhD student studying the volcanology of large igneous provinces on Mars, and in two Post doc positions working on landing site selection and then landing site characterization for the ExoMars mission. He is now a research fellow working on ‘Habitability on Mars and the Timing of Events in Oxia Planum’. With this project he continues to explore the ancient geological history of Mars, focusing on geographic context of where heat (volcanoes) and water (rivers, lakes and ice) have interacted. This is part of his broad interest in the context of life outside Earth; understanding where the places are in which life could have lived.

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