The recent discovery of hydrated sulfates on the Martian surface suggests that widespread wet conditions were present during its early geological history. Upon this discovery, a growing interest has emerged in the study of this group of minerals from terrestrial environments as potential Martian analogs. Here, we evaluate the potential of various analytical techniques involved in current and future mission to Mars for detecting hydrated minerals from caves and mines of Spain and the mining district of Iglesias-Carbonia (Sardinia, Italy). Minerals were analyzed by Raman spectroscopy, which will be included in the payload of the ESA’s 2018 ExoMars mission. On the other hand, IR spectroscopy, also included in the ExoMars mission, as well as LIBS spectroscopy and a combined XRD-XRF analyzer, both onboard the Curiosity rover of NASA’s MSL mission, were utilized. Hydrated sulfates (gypsum, epsomite, jarosite and glaucocerinite), silicates (hemimorphite) and carbonates (hydrozincite and hydromagnesite) were characterized. Most of these minerals have also been detected on the Martian surface. The mechanisms involved in the genesis of these minerals and the potential analogies with the minerogenesis on Mars are discussed. The Raman-LIBS combination appears to be the most powerful tool for detecting hydrated minerals in Martian conditions. This technology will probably be considered to be onboard of further planetary missions.
Keywords: hydrated minerals, ExoMars, Raman spectroscopy, LIBS, Mars exploration, mine minerals