Mineralogical analysis is a critical component of planetary surface exploration. Chemical data alone leave serious gaps in our understanding of the surfaces of planets where complex minerals may form in combination with H, S, and halogens. On such planets (e.g., Mars) a single chemical composition may represent a range of mineral assemblages. For example, Viking chemical analyses of excavated duricrust indicate that Mg and S are correlated and ~10% MgSO4 (anhydrous weight) is a likely cementing agent. Pathfinder chemical data support a similar abundance of MgSO4 in the most altered materials. However, there are many possible Mg-sulfates with widely varying hydration states (including dehydrated and 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-, and 7-hydrates). In addition, other sulfate minerals such as gypsum (CaSO4 .2H2O) and other salts containing Cl may also exist. X-ray diffraction (XRD) has the ability to decipher mixtures of these phases that would be difficult, if not impossible to unravel using only chemical or spectral data.
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Lunar and Planetary Science XXXV: The Future of Mars Surface Exploration; LPI-Contrib-1197