Mastcam-Z Initial Jezero Crater Floor Results Published After Peer-Review!

by Jim Bell

On Nov. 23, 2022, the first peer-reviewed Mastcam-Z focused research results from the Mars 2020 mission were published in an Open Access paper in the journal Science Advances. Ninety (90!) colleagues on the Mastcam-Z team — scientists, engineers, and students from institutions around the world — contributed to this research paper. This paper complements and enhances three other peer-reviewed papers published recently, partially based on Mastcam-Z data, to describe the Mars 2020 science team’s initial interpretations of the Jezero delta, initial results on the meteorology of the landing site, and initial synthesis of measurements from the entire Mars 2020 science instrument suite.

I was asked by the journal editors to try to summarize, in relatively non-jargon language, the major highlights reported in our Mastcam-Z paper. Here’s what I came up with:

Bell et al. (2022) AAAS Science Advances Mars 2020/Mastcam-Z paper highlights:

This paper reports the first detailed results focused specifically on the contributions made by the Mars 2020 mission’s high-resolution, stereo, multi-color, zoom camera system on Mars: Mastcam-Z. 

Highlights include:

(1) Mapping and interpretation of the first fully-360-degree high-res 3-D panoramas from the landing site and the crater floor. These panoramas provide the overall geologic context for the rover’s traverse and sampling so far in the mission, and they reveal a detailed variety of rock types and geologic units that have been studied in greater detail by the “up close” science instruments on the rover’s arm. 

(2) Textures seen in Mastcam-Z images, as well as stratigraphic and topographic mapping of the landscape, provide evidence for a volcanic origin for many of the rocks and outcrops seen on the Jezero crater floor. This was surprising, as the team was hoping to find lake-bed deposits based on orbital data. The presence of a volcanically-dominated terrain, however, in addition to be intrinsically scientifically interesting and relevant to the study of Mars in general, provided stronger impetus to drive the rover towards the delta at the western end of the crater, where lake-bed deposits have since been identified.

(3) The paper reports the first assessment of diagnostic iron-bearing minerals at the landing site and along the rover’s traverse of the crater floor based on Mastcam-Z’s full complement of color filters, which extend beyond RGB human color vision out into the infrared. These minerals include so-called “primary” iron-bearing minerals like those that emerge from typical volcanic rocks on Earth (minerals like olivine and pyroxene) as well as oxidized iron minerals like hematite that form from the weathering and alteration of those primary minerals.

(4) The first reports of the local weather in Jezero crater based on Mastcam-Z imaging of the Sun and the sky. The monitoring of dust devils and full-on dust storms by Mastcam-Z and other rover weather instruments provides the most detailed record yet of local dust conditions, enabling better predictive modeling of the origin and nature of Mars dust storms as well as weather patterns that will need to be understood by future settlers on the Red Planet.

(5) Finally, Mastcam-Z images and videos have provided critical engineering documentation of rover rock sampling systems as well as documentation of the historic first flights of the Ingenuity helicopter. Movies of the helicopter’s flights also provide “bonus” science information about the way that dust is lifted and transported by Ingenuity or in events like dust devils.

The paper also includes a Supplementary Text PDF with 11 additional (important!) figures plus links to a set of interactive 3-D models of various rocks and outcrops that we’ve encountered and/or sampled, plus a zip file containing downloadable versions of ten 3-D video flyover movies. We used these 3-D models and flyovers to support the analysis and interpretations reported in the paper.

We are delighted to be able to share these additional educational (and fun!) Mastcam-Z supplemental digital data products with scientific colleagues and the public. The Sketchfab models linked below follow the process outlined in the “Mars in 3D!” blog posted earlier by Christian Tate, Roland Aristide, and colleagues. And the flyover movies released with the paper are also available via the YouTube links below; they follow the process outlined in the “First Mastcam-Z team ‘flyover'” blog posted shortly after landing by Gerhard Paar and colleagues.

Here are the detailed captions and URLs/YouTube links to the supplementary Mastcam-Z 3-D materials that support the analysis and interpretations published in our paper:

Videos and www-accessible interactive 3D models that support specific figures in the Bell et al. (2022) Mastcam-Z Science Advances paper, in order of appearance in the paper:

Figures 2, 3a, 3d, and S1: 3-D video fly-over of regolith and paver rocks at “Peppermint Prickly Pear Pavers” and other locations (with audio).
Figure 3A and S1: 3-D interactive model of Nizhoni.
Figure 4E: 3-D interactive model of the sampled rock Rochette, pre-abrasion.
Figures 4G and 5: Examples of Mastcam-Z 3-D DTM analyses for stratigraphy and ventifact orientations.
Figure 5B: 3-D interactive model of the Kodiak delta remnant.
Figures 6A, 6D, 6E, and S6: 3-D video fly-over from an outcrop of the Séítah formation (Figure S6) to Artuby ridge outcrops (Figure 6D and 6E) of the Máaz formation. On the way back the camera stops at an outcrop in the transition zone between the Séítah and Máaz formations (Figure 6A).
Figures 6B and S4: 3-D video fly-over of an outcrop of the Maaz formation at Artuby ridge.
Figure 6C: 3-D video fly-over of the Mure layered outcrop.
Figure 6D: 3-D interactive model of the Mure layered outcrop in the southeast Artuby ridge.
Figures 6 and S4: 3-D interactive model of the Mure layered outcrop farther along on Artuby ridge.
Figure 8C: 3-D interactive model of the Naat’áanii target in the Dibahi workspace near the Octavia E. Butler landing site.
Figure 9G: 3-D interactive model of the Niyol rock target:
Figure 9F: 3-D interactive model of disturbed soil with wheel tracks at rock named Raton.
Figure S3B: 3-D interactive model of the abrasion patch at the Guillaumes sampling site.
Figure S3B: 3-D video fly-over of WATSON images of the tailings pile from the “failed” first coring attempt at the Roubion sampling site.
Figure S3C: 3-D interactive model of of WATSON images of the Bellegarde abrasion patch.
Figure S3D: 3-D interactive model of of WATSON images of the Garde abrasion patch.
Figure S3E: 3-D interactive model of of WATSON images of the Dourbes abrasion patch.
Figures S3E, S7C, and S8D: 3-D video fly-over of the of the Brac sampling site.
Figure S4: 3-D interactive model of Artuby ridge.
Figures S5 and S6: 3-D video fly-over of part of Séítah.
Figure S10: Mastcam-Z full videos of Ingenuity Flights #4, #5, and others.

In addition, the following 3-D fly-over videos provide a general overview/examples of the ways that 3-D images and DTMs support the understanding of scale, sizes, thicknesses, and strikes/dips of features being assessed for stratigraphic and structural analyses, as well as the ways that the authors interrogate the interfaces between rocks and the regolith:

This is just the latest in what will eventually be a large number of peer-reviewed research papers that showcase the many ways that Mastcam-Z images, mosaics, movies, and other data sets are helping the Mars 2020 science team to explore Jezero crater, collect and document samples that will eventually be returned to Earth, and meet our mission’s objectives. Enjoy!!!