Earth & Planetary Sciences 438 - Advanced Topics in Geophysics
Mars: Life, Tectonics and Exploration

Winter Quarter 2017
Monday, 1-3:20, F380  

Donna M. Jurdy

Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences


The first humans on Mars may revisit the landing site of the Viking 2 Lander to study the effects that the Martian surface and atmosphere have had over the decades on the spacecraft. Viking 2, launched September 9, 1975, entered Mars orbit on August 7, 1976. Viking Lander 2 touched down at Utopia Planitia on September 3, 1976. The two Viking Landers transmitted images of the surface, took surface samples and analyzed them for composition and signs of life; also they studied atmospheric composition and meteorology, and delivered seismometers that were mounted on the lander's legs. Viking Lander 2 ended communication on April 11, 1980. To this day no seismometer has been placed on the martian surface. A seismic network would provide invaluable information about martian tectonic activity as well as about the surface and interior structure  of Mars.
(This image produced for NASA by Pat Rawlings. Technical concepts from NASA's Projects Office, Johnson Space Center, 1991).

The seminar will cover the red planet Mars, starting with its role in history, orbit, satellites, formation, physical characteristics; also covering recent probes, successes and failures and the results, and theories for its evolution and tectonic activity, including evidence for water and implications for life and its origin there as well as possible present existence.

Dates, Text (Chapters), Topics Covered (Syllabus)
Mars: An Introduction to its Interior, Surface and Atmosphere, Nadine G. Barlow, Cambridge, 264pp., 2008. Text
Mars, ed. by H. H. Kieffer et al. (with 114 collaborating authors), U. of Arizona Press, 1455 pp., 1992.
      (summarizes research through the Viking mission)
Books on shelf in F380, along with other sources.

Depiction of Mars in Fiction and Film, Space Exploration or 'First Contact'
      Mars has played a central role in science fiction presented in both movies and fiction.
      In the 50's, pre-space missions, alien life, often intelligent, resided on "The Red Planet.
      (list of movies, related books)


  • Reprints for download  Class Visuals, & References



    Jupiter (and other outer planets) Satellites:
  • Carnegie Institute satellite page, with new discoveries
  • Orbits of Mars, Earth, reference frames:
  • animations of orbits
  • Lectures, American Geophysical Union Conferences:
  • AGU Named Lectures in Planetary Sciences, "Lectures"
  • Solar System Images:
  • LPI Impact Crater Slideset
  • LPI Solar System in 3D Slideset
  • LPI Solar System Tour & Voyager Slideset
  • Mars Images:
  • LPI Mars Survey, Ancient Life?, Winds and Landforms, Impact Craters, Volcanoes Slidesets

  • Return to Course Information

    Created: - 1/3/2017

    Last Update: DJ - 1/3/2017