NASA awarded a geology doctoral student in the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, a $285,000 grant for what it seems to be a brave project. Joanna Clark has to develop an innovative system that might be helpful in the future to better understand past climate circumstances on Mars.
Clark expressed her interest in geology since childhood. Now, she has a one-of-a-kind opportunity to prove that her interest is not only an idea on paper. NASA will support her throughout her research.
She stated: “We hope to have samples from Mars one day, and when we do, we need to be ready to evaluate them. This could help give us a better understanding of how the planet has changed over millions of years.” Currently, Clark’s study will center on making silica minerals in the laboratory to find out how they appear in subzero temperatures, similar to Mars’.
About the New System to Research Past Climate of Mars
Silica minerals, quartz, for example, are regularly present in Earth’s surface sediment, but silica was also identified in sediment and rocks on Mars. NASA’s Curiosity Rover made such a discovery. Clark added: “I am working on how to get the silica out of solution as a solid with all the right chemistry. Once I am able to do that, I will take the solid and analyze it for oxygen isotopes.”
Joanna has also made the team with Tom Lapen, who became her study advisor and chair of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Lapen explained that the silica compound could preserve the conditions under which it hastened, or become a solid, from a liquid state.
Moreover, silica identified on Mars could be a possible source of past climate information. Other research collaborators are Elizabeth Rampe, an exploration mission scientists, and Henry Chafetz, UH professor of geology.