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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jun > Jun 17

Arctic Crater Expedition to Seek Mars Science

From: NASANews@hq.nasa.gov
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 1998 17:01:29 -0400 (EDT)
Fwd Date: Wed, 17 Jun 1998 09:28:52 -0400
Subject: Arctic Crater Expedition to Seek Mars Science

Douglas Isbell
Headquarters, Washington, DC                       June 16, 1998
(Phone:  202/358-1753)

Michael Mewhinney
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA
(Phone:  650/604-3937)

Anne Watzman
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
(Phone:  412/268-3830)

RELEASE:  98-105


     NASA scientists soon will explore a barren Arctic meteorite
impact crater to attempt to learn more about Mars and its early
history, while testing technologies useful for future robotic and
human exploration of the planet.

     From June 22 to July 26, a 20-member science team from NASA and
several other research organizations will explore the Haughton Impact
Crater and its surroundings on Devon Island in the Arctic Circle.

     Scientists consider the site a potential Mars analog because many
of its geologic features, such as the crater's ice-rich terrains, its
ancient lake sediments and nearby networks of small valleys, resemble
those reported at the surface of Mars.  The site may shed light in
particular on the early history of Mars, when the planet's climate may
have been wetter and warmer.

     "The cold, relatively dry, windy and unvegetated environment at
the Haughton site is milder and wetter than present-day Mars, but it
may give us an idea of what early Mars was like and how some of its
surface features were formed," said Principal Investigator
Dr. Pascal Lee of NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA.

     During the expedition, Dr. Omead Amidi and other engineers from
Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, Pittsburgh, PA, will
conduct field tests of an experimental, robotic helicopter.  "The
mission provides a great opportunity to demonstrate the feasibility
and the value of robotic aircraft for mapping and surveying
applications," Amidi said.

      Carnegie Mellon's small, 160-pound autonomous helicopter has
vision-based stability and position control, as well as an onboard
navigation computer, laser rangefinder and video system for site
mapping.  More information about the unpiloted helicopter may be found
at the following website:

     In addition to the tests with the autonomous helicopter,
scientists also will conduct experiments with a ground-penetrating
radar system, a field spectrometer, drilling equipment and a stereo

     The radar system will be deployed in an attempt to map ground-ice
and other subsurface conditions within and outside the crater's 12-
mile (20-kilometer) diameter.  "The ability to find underground ice,
both for human consumption and geologic studies, will be critical in
the exploration of Mars," said Dr. Aaron Zent of Ames, Dr. Lee's post-
doctoral research advisor.

     Scientists will use a field spectrometer to determine the site's
reflective qualities and better understand the crater's compositional
evolution.  In another experiment, scientists will use a portable
drill to obtain core samples from ten feet deep in the frozen ground.
Core samples of sediments from a lake that once occupied the crater
will provide information about local climate evolution.  Since the use
of liquid drilling lubricants might be precluded on Mars, none will be
used in this test.

     A portable stereo camera system previously used by Carnegie
Mellon's Nomad rover during its unprecedented 133-mile wheeled trek
through Chile's Atacama Desert last summer will provide high-
resolution images of the site, and produce images for a 360 degree
photo-realistic virtual reality project being developed by Ames'
Intelligent Mechanisms Group.

     Using laptop computer systems and "mobile workstations" developed
by Ames' Intelligent Mobile Technologies Team, scientists will
communicate with other field team members and send live images via a
wireless link.  Team members will operate from a base camp on a
terrace of the Haughton River within the crater's perimeter and
explore the site with All-Terrain Vehicles.  Supplies will be brought
in by Twin Otter airplane, while a helicopter will aid exploration of
remote sites.

     As part of the expedition's educational outreach program, the
following website will be updated regularly with new data and images
as available:  http://www.arctic-mars.org

     The total cost of the project is $80,000.  NASA is partially
funding the project through a National Research Council grant.
Additional support is provided by Ames Research Center; NASA's Johnson
Space Center, Houston, TX; the Geological Survey of Canada; the Polar
Continental Shelf Project of Canada; the Nunavut Research Institute,
Canada; the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University; NovAtel
Communications, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and the National Geographic


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