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Science Background

Over the past two decades, our understanding of the martian polar and circumpolar regions has been greatly advanced by the analysis of data acquired by the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Express, Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and most recently the Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft, as well as the Phoenix Lander. This data has yielded the first high-resolution topographic maps of the north and south polar layered deposits; submeter scale images of the stratigraphy exposed in the polar troughs and reentrants; radar sounding investigations of the internal structure and basal topography of the polar deposits; year-round coverage of the thermophysical, radiative, and compositional properties of the polar atmosphere and surface; and in situ investigations of the near-surface volatiles, stratigraphy, soil composition, geology, and meteorology of the martian polar and ice-dominated regions.

The specific issues and questions that will be addressed at the conference are encompassed by the key questions identified at the end of the Sixth Mars Polar Science and Exploration Conference:

Question 1 – Polar Atmosphere:  What are the dynamical and physical atmospheric processes at various spatial and temporal scales in the polar regions, and how do they contribute to the global cycle of volatiles and dust?

Question 2 – Perennial Polar Ices:  What do the characteristics of martian polar ice deposits reveal about their formation and evolution?

Question 3 – Polar Record of Past Climate:  How has the martian climate evolved through geologic history, what are the absolute ages of the observable climate records, and how should we interpret the records of past-states?

Question 4 – Non-Polar Ice:  What is the history and present state of the mid- and low-latitude volatile reservoirs?

Question 5 – Present Day Surface Activity:  What are the roles of volatiles and dust in surface processes actively shaping the present polar regions of Mars?

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