Spectral Diversity of Rocks and Soils in Mastcam Observations Along the Curiosity Rover's Traverse in Gale Crater, Mars

Melissa S. Rice, Christina Seeger, Jim Bell, Fred Calef, Michael St. Clair, Alivia Eng, Abigail A. Fraeman, Cory Hughes, Briony Horgan, Samantha Jacob, Jeff Johnson, Hannah Kerner, Kjartan Kinch, Mark Lemmon, Chase Million, Mason Starr, Danika Wellington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover has explored over 400 m of vertical stratigraphy within Gale crater to date. These fluvio-deltaic, lacustrine, and aeolian strata have been well-documented by Curiosity's in situ and remote science instruments, including the Mast Camera (Mastcam) pair of multispectral imagers. Mastcam visible to near-infrared spectra can broadly distinguish between iron phases and oxidation states, and in combination with chemical data from other instruments, Mastcam spectra can help constrain mineralogy, depositional origin, and diagenesis. However, no traverse-scale analysis of Mastcam multispectral data has yet been performed. We compiled a database of Mastcam spectra from >600 multispectral observations and quantified spectral variations across Curiosity's traverse through Vera Rubin ridge (sols 0–2302). From principal component analysis and an examination of spectral parameters, we identified nine rock spectral classes and five soil spectral classes. Rock classes are dominated by spectral differences attributed to hematite and other oxides (due to variations in grain size, composition, and abundance) and are mostly confined to specific stratigraphic members. Soil classes fall along a mixing line between soil spectra dominated by fine-grained Fe-oxides and those dominated by olivine-bearing sands. By comparing trends in soil versus rock spectra, we find that locally derived sediments are not significantly contributing to the spectra of soils. Rather, varying contributions of dark, mafic sands from the active Bagnold Dune field is the primary spectral characteristic of soils. These spectral classes and their trends with stratigraphy provide a basis for comparison in Curiosity's ongoing exploration of Gale crater.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021JE007134
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Mars exploration
  • Mars geology
  • image processing
  • multispectral imaging
  • reflectance spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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