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2009 Annual Science Report

Carnegie Institution of Washington Reporting  |  JUL 2008 – AUG 2009

Project 6: Application of Laboratory Experimentation to Flight Instrument Testing

Project Summary

The Arctic Mars Analogue Svalbard Expedition (AMASE) tests instruments, procedures and protocols to answer critical science questions on Mars. NAI sponsored researchers undertake science tasks alongside scientists developing instruments for Mars missions (MSL and ExoMars).

4 Institutions
3 Teams
5 Publications
1 Field Site
Field Sites

Project Progress

CoI Steele has been extensively involved in Astrobiology relevant flight instrument testing. Support over the past funding period is derived from the CIW-NAI grant as well a NASA ASTEP (Steele PI). From 9–23 August 2009, 40 scientists and engineers involved in Mars exploration took part in the Arctic Mars Analogue Svalbard Expedition (AMASE) 2009 in the Svalbard archipelago, Norway, organised by Hans Amundsen (EPX Expedition lead) and CoI Andrew Steele (Carnegie Institution Science lead). The scientific goal of AMASE is to study the geology, geophysics, biosignatures, and life forms that can be found in volcanic complexes, warm springs, subsurface ice, and sedimentary deposits considered good analogues to sites on ancient Mars. Specific goals can be found in Table 1. This work was carried out using instruments, a rover, and techniques that will/may be used in future planetary missions, such as NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) or ESA’s ExoMars.

While the expedition was underway, researchers lived and worked either in a research station in Ny Alesund or on board the R/V Lance, a 60m research vessel. This ship is run by the Norwegian Polar Institute and is operated primarily in Arctic and Antarctic waters. Part of the campaign received helicopter support to deploy field teams and equipment and exchange teams between the R/V Lance and Ny Alesund.

Fig 6.1. ​Figure 6.1 – Athena Rover with sample scoop and caching capability.

Field deployable prototypes of several instruments on board Mars Science Laboratory and ESA ExoMars mission were tested alongside each other. The instruments include;

1. The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite, which will be incorporated into the MSL Analytical Laboratory, is being developed at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), together with several partners. SAM consists of a quadrupole mass spectrometer (QMS), a gas chromatograph (GC), and a tunable laser mass spectrometer (TSL). SAM on AMASE 09 conducted Evolved Gas Analysis-Mass Spectrometry (EGA-MS) analyses on 21 samples collected in field.

2. The ground-penetrating radar WISDOM, Water Ice and Subsurface Deposit Information On Mars, will explore the subsurface of Mars selecting locations where scientific data suggests that liquid water once existed. These data, combined with those produced by the PanCam, will be used to support drilling activities.

3. The Raman spectrometer will improve our knowledge of the geological context and identify minerals associated with past habitable conditions, such as phases produced by water-related processes.

4. Close-up imaging is important to determine the geological history of Mars at sub-millimetre scales. It is equivalent to the hand lens used by geologists in the field. Different types of rocks will be selected on the basis of texture and possible presence of water for further detailed investigations.

5. Life Marker Chip type demonstrator, this instrument monitored terrestrial contamination by a limited protein microarray in a portable format. Primarily designed for use for planetary protection.

6. The PanCam, Panoramic Camera, instrument includes two Wide Angle Cameras (WAC), for multi-spectral stereoscopic panoramic imaging, and a High Resolution Camera (HRC) for high resolution colour imaging. One of its main objectives is to investigate the geology of the sites around the ExoMars rover and to study the properties of the Martian atmosphere.

7. CheMin determines the mineralogy and elemental composition of crushed or powdered samples through the combined application of X-ray diffraction (mineral structure analysis) and X-ray fluorescence (elemental analysis). With the exception of the sample introduction system, CheMin has no moving parts, expendable reagents, or chemicals.

As well as instruments, sample return technologies were tested as an integrated platform to the Athena rover.
Specific science goals on AMASE this year included;

  • To distinguish between abiotic and biotically influenced carbonate deposition by studying the context and analysing a range of carbonate samples from several field sites.
  • To understand the relationship between carbonates, peridotite xenoliths, basalt and clays such as that seen on Sverrefjell, and understand how they contribute uniquely to a habitat.
  • To characterize the association between the distribution of life and preservation of biosignatures in 2 mineralogical environments; Sverrefjell volcanic rocks and the sedimentary red beds.
  • To understand the Volcanic contribution to the organic inventory in the Bockfjorden area.
  • To study the seasonal variation within the unique microbial ecosystems in the hot springs of the Bockfjorden area.

Results from AMASE 09 are currently still being assessed however; the following list highlights the diversity of activities;

  • Two field deployments of the Athena rover platform demonstrated successful acquisition and caching of samples. Planetary protection protocols were assessed during the demonstration.
  • A range of carbonates were analyzed by all flight instrumentation. These carbonates were collected from the field sites and range from stromatolites to hot spring travertines, basalt breccia, cryogenically precipitated, mantle derived and carbonate globules similar to those found in ALH84001.
  • Two “shakedown” tests of the ExoMars payloads were undertaken. Backed by field portable instrumentation the payload of ExoMars was assessed in 2 separate field sites.
  • Simulated Mars operations were carried out with the whole crew to prepare them for Mars rover operations.
  • Extensive sampling for a comprehensive habitability study were collected from hotspring and volcanic environments.
  • Testing of software for sample collection and curation. These samples will be analyzed by a wide range of technique applicable to Mars sample return in the coming year.

AMASE is funded by the NASA ASTEP program and ESA Prodex grants. NAI funding aided in preparing instruments for field deployment and supporting CIW-NAI Post Doc Mihaela Glamoclija’s presence on the expedition.

Table 1. ​Table 1