Cordilleran Section - 113th Annual Meeting - 2017

Paper No. 38-5
Presentation Time: 3:25 PM


BELL Jr., Ernest R., Department of Geology, University of Maryland, 8000 Regents Drive, College Park, MD 20742, SCHMERR, Nicholas C., Department of Geology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, BLEACHER, Jacob E., NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, PORTER, Ryan C., Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, YOUNG, Kelsey E., UTEP/Jacobs JETS Contract, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX 77058 and PETTIT, Donald R., NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX 77058,

After over a decade of progressively more elaborate human lunar exploration simulations, NASA performed its most elaborate exercise in the Fall of 2010. This two week analog lunar mission, part of the NASA Desert Research and Technology Studies (RATS), was performed in the San Francisco Volcanic Field (SFVF) near Flagstaff, Arizona, in the vicinity of SP Crater. The simulated mission included prototype habitable rovers, habitats, and representative communication limitations that resulted in detailed and realistic human piloted rover traverse paths around the lava fields and cinder cones of the SFVF, and studied the impacts of operational constraints on the efficiency of the geologic fieldwork performed. It did not however include geophysical studies in the planning or execution of the rover traverses.

Our research is designed to understand the impact of incorporating geophysical studies in a human planetary traverse on Mars by comparing the inclusion of geophysical fieldwork into a “mission based” geologic traverse, against a standard “terrestrial survey”. We selected a 7 km x 7 km study region located within the SFVF that is roughly centered on SP Crater, a cinder cone exhibiting 250 meters of relief. This region contains numerous cinder cone volcanoes, lava flows, and sedimentary deposits that are analogous to locations of scientific interest on Mars.

During our Fall 2016 field season, geophysical instrumentation including seismic, magnetic, and ground penetrating radar (GPR) were used to acquire data along the rover traverse paths and in proximity to the science station locations from the 2010 NASA Desert RATS exercise. The data from these instruments is being analyzed to provide a planetary traverse based understanding of the characteristics of local volcanic features (flows and vents) and their relationship with the underlying structure.

In addition, the geophysical field methods, resource and time constraints, and in-situ optimization from human adaptation to onsite geologic conditions can be used to begin to breakdown the scientific needs for conducting such a mission. Our initial analysis provides a planetary traverse based understanding of the characteristics of local volcanic features to the underlying structure, while laying the groundwork to define scientific needs for future planetary missions.