Revising the geological mapping of Mars

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GEOmedia Special Issue in English 3-2019

by Marco Pantaloni, Roberto Graciotti, Lucia Marinangeli, Matteo Massironi

The geological map is a unique graphical tool that summarises through colours and symbols, the complex evolution of a planet. It requires the combination of many different characteristics of the studied rock sequences including lithology, stratigraphy and structural deformation to reconstruct the variation of environments and climates through time. Although based on the same basic principles as on Earth, planetary geological - geomorphological mapping has some peculiarities which need to be addressed in order to standardize the technical and scientific approach.

The standards of planetary cartography have long been based on principles defined in the 1970s during the Apollo missions, while recently it is emerged the need to develop new cartographic guidelines in the light of advances in the understanding of geological processes that shape planetary surfaces. Furthermore, the plethora of new data derived from recent space missions and the possibility of identifying resources to be used in situ in view of permanent stations on the Moon and eventually Mars accentuate this need. This was recently faced by the USGS, which since the Apollo Era has continuously produced geological mapping of the surfaces of other planets and by a network of European scientific institutes involved in the pilot project H2020- PLANMAP ( In this framework, the Geological Survey of Italy, ISPRA, recently started a collaboration with the Italian Space Agency (ASI), the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) and the Universities of Chieti, Cagliari, Naples Federico II, Padua, Perugia and Jacobs University of Bremen.

The aim of the project is the attempt to apply the cartographic standards rules used in the Italian Geological Mapping Project (CARG Project) for the realization of geological and geomorphological maps at various scales of detail even in the planetary environments. Thanks to the excellent coverage of high-resolution images of HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) and the availability of medium and high resolution DTMs of some specific sectors of its surface, the applicability of the cartographic guidelines, published by the Geological Survey of Italy in the “Quaderni” series ( it/it/progetti/suolo-e-territorio-1/progetto-carg-cartografia-geologica-e- geotematica/linee-guida), is being tested. In this preliminary phase of the work, has been tested the production of geological and geomorphological maps of some sample areas of planet Mars.