Thursday, November 24, 2011

Scientists simulate Moon and Mars exploration

Moon and Mars exploration
NASA and a team of international researchers from Mars Institute and SETI Institute returned to the Mojave Desert this month to complete a series of field tests and simulations aimed at investigating how humans will conduct geotechnical surveys on the moon or Mars the Mojave's inhospitable, sun-scorched environment presents scientists with perfect opportunities to study locations that are similar to what explorers would find on the moon or Mars. Other research partners include Carnegie Mellon University and aerospace companies Hamilton Sundstrand, Windsor Locks, Conn., and Honeybee Robotics, Pasadena, Calif.

The Mojave simulations were designed to study how an astronaut crew would characterize the geotechnical properties of a site, such as the composition and density of surface materials, their water content and roughness of the terrain. As part of the characterization of the sites by human explorers, soil samples were collected for microbiological analysis. The soil samples will be examined in the laboratory for their microbial content to better understand the astrobiological potential offered by similar environments on Mars.

“Our overall goal was to learn how to scientifically explore and validate, as civil engineers would, open areas on the moon and Mars that might be candidate sites for an outpost or other elements of surface infrastructure,” explained Pascal Lee, chairman of the Mars Institute and leader of the field campaign.

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