Geology, Climate & Habitability


SCIM will fundamentally advance our knowledge of the geology, climate and habitability of Mars, a terrestrial planet that may have been similar to Earth in its early history. As the first sample return from another terrestrial planet, SCIM will provide a unique data set and a comparative basis for understanding how the rocky inner planets formed and why they have evolved so differently from each other.

Science Objectives

  • Quantitatively characterize the chemical, isotopic, and mineralogical composition of Martian crustal materials as represented by the global dust
  • Investigate aqueous alteration processes and environments that have affected or produced Martian surface materials
  • Understand Mars’ volatile reservoirs and hydrologic cycles
  • Synthesize data from remote-sensing and Earth-based laboratory investigations of Martian materials to provide “ground truth” for past and future missions
Particle formation processes
Geochemical and mineralogical analyses of dust will constrain the processes responsible for its formation.

Fine Particles

Fine particles, in particular, can record many interesting and varied processes on Mars, from aqueous transport to volcanic eruptions. By studying the fine particles in atomic-level detail only possible in labs on Earth, we will provide never-before seen insights into the most important processes that have shaped Mars. These insights will also help engineers design more robust mechanisms, habitats and space suits in future robotic and crewed missions to the surface of Mars.


SCIM leverages the very latest in nano-science and technology available here on Earth. Scientists in terrestrial labs have the ability to slice a single microscopic dust particle into numerous pieces that can be shipped around the globe for analyses in the most advanced labs on Earth.

particle analytical methods
Fine particles, such as this example 10 micron dust particle, can be analyzed in detail by a variety of laboratory instruments on Earth, providing never-before seen insights into the most important processes that have shaped Mars.

Advantages of Sample Return

1: High Science Return

  • Material origin and processing are recorded at microscopic, molecular, and atomic levels—scales readily accessible only by Earth-based lab instruments
  • Important scientific discoveries can be rapidly confirmed by new measurements with additional instruments
  • Curated samples are available when new hypotheses arise and call for new measurements

2: Advanced Instrumentation

  • The very best instruments are used for samples analysis: no limitation on what can be “flight qualified” by the time of launch
  • No time limits: As more advanced instruments are developed, they can be used on the curated sample

3: Participation

  • Hundreds of scientists and students can participate directly in the mission by making measurements in their own labs—literally dozens of highly sophisticated instruments worldwide will be used
  • Many scientists not currently part of the traditional “Mars science community” will be involved—these scientists will provide valuable new perspectives and ideas
  • Millions of Mars enthusiasts will have access to SCIM mission imagery and science results, and we will enlist citizen scientists to help identify dust tracks in the aerogel, as well as participate in other aspects of the scientific analysis

4: Replication

  • Important results can be verified independently using the same method in another lab or by using a complementary technique
  • Experimental anomalies can be directly resolved

Join Us

We are dedicated to advancing the frontiers of space science and exploration.

Together we will create new levels of public access and engagement in scientific research from space. Support us as we all explore the universe, galaxies, and new solar systems - discoveries await!

Have questions about our team and our plans? Contact us today and connect with us on Twitter and Facebook!