, Volume 96, Issue 1-4, pp 263-292

Geological Processes and Evolution

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Geological mapping and establishment of stratigraphic relationships provides an overview of geological processes operating on Mars and how they have varied in time and space. Impact craters and basins shaped the crust in earliest history and as their importance declined, evidence of extensive regional volcanism emerged during the Late Noachian. Regional volcanism characterized the Early Hesperian and subsequent to that time, volcanism was largely centered at Tharsis and Elysium, continuing until the recent geological past. The Tharsis region appears to have been largely constructed by the Late Noachian, and represents a series of tectonic and volcanic centers. Globally distributed structural features representing contraction characterize the middle Hesperian. Water-related processes involve the formation of valley networks in the Late Noachian and into the Hesperian, an ice sheet at the south pole in the middle Hesperian, and outflow channels and possible standing bodies of water in the northern lowlands in the Late Hesperian and into the Amazonian. A significant part of the present water budget occurs in the present geologically young polar layered terrains. In order to establish more firmly rates of processes, we stress the need to improve the calibration of the absolute timescale, which today is based on crater count systems with substantial uncertainties, along with a sampling of rocks of unknown provenance. Sample return from carefully chosen stratigraphic units could calibrate the existing timescale and vastly improve our knowledge of Martian evolution.