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While human exploration of Mars is unlikely to be undertaken for science reasons alone, science will be the main beneficiary. A wide range of science problems can be addressed at Mars. The planet formed in a different part of the solar system from the Earth and retains clues concerning compositional and environmental conditions in that part of the solar system when the planets formed. Mars has had a long and complex history that has involved almost as wide a range of processes as occurred on Earth. Elucidation of this history will require a comprehensive program of field mapping, geophysical sounding, in situ analyses, and return of samples to Earth that are representative of the planet's diversity. The origin and evolution of the Mars' atmosphere are very different from the Earth's, Mars having experienced major secular and cyclical changes in climate. Clues as to precisely how the atmosphere has evolved are embedded in its present chemistry, possibly in surface sinks of former atmosphere-forming volatiles, and in the various products of interaction between the atmosphere and surface. The present atmosphere also provides a means of testing general circulation models applicable to all planets. Although life is unlikely to be still extant on Mars, life may have started early in the planet's history. A major goal of any future exploration will, therefore, be to search for evidence of indigenous life.
Additional Publication Details
Scientific objectives of human exploration of Mars
American Astronautical Society, Scientific Technology Series