Meeting Location and Date
The Fourth International Conference on Early Mars: Geologic, Hydrologic, and Climatic Evolution and the Implications for Life will be held October 2–6, 2017, in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Purpose and Scope
The influx of new data received from the MAVEN orbiter, NASA’s Curiosity Rover, and other recent spacecraft missions to Mars; the study of the SNC meteorites; recent progress in early climate modeling; the growing evidence of the role of water in the planet’s evolution; and the rapid pace of new discoveries about the origin and diversity of life on Earth have reinvigorated interest in both the conditions that prevailed on Mars during its first billion years of geologic history and their implications for the development of life.
These issues were first addressed at the first three Early Mars conferences that were held in Houston (1997), Jackson Hole (2004), and Lake Tahoe (2012).
Like its predecessors, the Fourth Early Mars Conference will place a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary discussion and debate, bringing together scientists from fields as diverse as planetary geology, atmospheres, climate, meteoritics, microbiology, and molecular biochemistry to focus on the conditions that prevailed on Mars during its first billion years of geologic history.
The purpose of the conference is twofold:
(1) to consider how astronomical variations in insolation, impacts, volcanism, and the presence of water affected the nature of the early terrestrial and martian climates and the physical and chemical environments that existed on both planets >3.7 Ga — especially with regard to the geologic and mineralogical evolution of their surfaces, their hydrologic cycles, the development of life, and the preservation of its signature in the geologic record; and
(2) to discuss the investigations that might be conducted by present and future missions to test the hypotheses arising from (1).
A principal focus of the Fourth Early Mars Conference is “The Global Inventory and Evolution of Water on Early Mars,” addressing the following questions:
- What was the size of the global inventory of water on Mars during the Noachian and Early Hesperian? How was it acquired? And how much of it was lost?
- Did early Mars have oceans, lakes, and seas? If so, how did they form? How long did they last? And what was their fate?
- What other reservoirs of water existed and how did they interact and change over time?
- Did it rain? Or was meltwater from ice sheets and snow packs sufficient to generate the valley networks and other ancient fluvial landforms?
- What was the nature of the early climate and how did it evolve with time? And to what extent did episodic events, like impacts and volcanism, influence the planet’s climate on both a regional and global scale?
- How consistent is the geologic evidence (geomorphic, stratigraphic, and mineralogical) for and against the above? And, in those instances where the evidence is ambiguous or conflicting, how might that uncertainty or conflict be resolved?
While the central discussion will focus on the inventory, distribution, and exchange of water on early Mars, as well as the nature and evolution of its early climate, the meeting will also address the progress that has been made in answering the key science questions identified at the third Early Mars conference (Clifford et al., 2014), including
- How is the early history of the inner solar system related to Mars?
- What was the nature of the geophysical evolution of early Mars?
- How did the early martian environment evolve with respect to its physical, geochemical, and mineralogical attributes?
- Did prebiotic chemistry and life occur on early Mars?