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Stand-off Raman spectroscopy is emerging as a critical new tool for planetary exploration. Mounted on a rover, a stand-off Raman system can be used to rapidly identify areas of interest for subsequent, synergistic investigations with other stand-off or close-up (arm-mounted) instruments; survey broad areas and perform reconnaissance tasks from a fixed location; and increase the efficiency of mission operations where targets of interest are in areas that are too hard to access for a rover. Not surprisingly, NASA’s next Mars mission will fly a stand-off Raman system as part of the SuperCam instrument package. This chapter reviews two stand-off Raman systems that paved the way for the development of new technologies and instrument architectures for robotic stand-off planetary exploration using Raman spectroscopy, including the SuperCam instrument suite.
The “espada” speleothems of Cueva de las Espadas (Naica Mine, Chihuahua, Mexico) comprise a high-purity selenite core overlain by successive deposits of calcite, gypsum and aragonite. Gypsum precipitated under water from a hydrothermal solution (~ 58°C) when the water table was above the cave level ca. 57 ka, during the last glaciation, and some intervals during deglaciation and the Holocene. Aragonite was deposited at lower temperatures (~ 26°C) in a perched lake occupying the cave bottom, when the water table dropped below the cave level during brief dry intervals during deglaciation and the early Holocene. The isotopic composition of gypsum water of crystallization shows that the deglaciation–Holocene aquifer water was enriched in deuterium by 12.8–8.7‰ relative to water from the last glaciation. This is attributed to an increased relative moisture contribution from the Gulf of Mexico during deglaciation and the Holocene compared to the last glaciation. This indicates that drier conditions occurred in the Naica area during the Holocene than around 57 ka. Furthermore, trace element analyses of gypsum served to deduce the circulation regime of the Naica aquifer during the past 60,000 yr, and also suggest that higher aquifer recharge occurred during the last glaciation.
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