The first X-ray diffraction measurements on Mars

David Bish, David Blake, David Vaniman, Philippe Sarrazin, Thomas Bristow, Cherie Achilles, Przemyslaw Dera, Steve Chipera, Joy Crisp, R. T. Downs, Jack Farmer, Marc Gailhanou, Doug Ming, John Michael Morookian, Richard Morris, Shaunna Morrison, Elizabeth Rampe, Allan Treiman, Albert Yen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The Mars Science Laboratory landed in Gale crater on Mars in August 2012, and the Curiosity rover then began field studies on its drive toward Mount Sharp, a central peak made of ancient sediments. CheMin is one of ten instruments on or inside the rover, all designed to provide detailed information on the rocks, soils and atmosphere in this region. CheMin is a miniaturized X-ray diffraction/X-ray fluorescence (XRD/XRF) instrument that uses transmission geometry with an energy-discriminating CCD detector. CheMin uses onboard standards for XRD and XRF calibration, and beryl:quartz mixtures constitute the primary XRD standards. Four samples have been analysed by CheMin, namely a soil sample, two samples drilled from mudstones and a sample drilled from a sandstone. Rietveld and full-pattern analysis of the XRD data reveal a complex mineralogy, with contributions from parent igneous rocks, amorphous components and several minerals relating to aqueous alteration. In particular, the mudstone samples all contain one or more phyllosilicates consistent with alteration in liquid water. In addition to quantitative mineralogy, Rietveld refinements also provide unit-cell parameters for the major phases, which can be used to infer the chemical compositions of individual minerals and, by difference, the composition of the amorphous component.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)514-522
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Oct 10 2014


  • Curiosity rover
  • Mars
  • X-ray diffraction
  • extraterrestrial mineralogy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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