2011 Annual Science Report

Carnegie Institution of Washington Reporting  |  SEP 2010 – AUG 2011

Project 6: Application of Laboratory Experimentation to Flight Instrument Testing

Project Summary

This project links our Astrobiological research program to an international (NASA and ESA) research program centers on using Svalbard Island, Norway, as a Mars Analogue Research Site. The research is a collaboration between the Carnegie Institution of Washington and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. During the past summer a variety of instruments designed to be flown to Mars were tested under the cold, dry conditions provided by Svalbard.

4 Institutions
3 Teams
12 Publications
1 Field Site
Field Sites

Project Progress

The Arctic Mars Analogue Svalbard Expeditions (AMASE) 2011 was the latest of a series of expeditions that are NASA ASTEP, NAI and ESA funded and have as their primary goals 1) testing portable instruments for their robustness as field instruments for life detection, 2) assessing Mars analogue environments for abiosignatures and biosignatures, 3) refining protocols for contamination reduction, 4) defining a minimal instrument suite for Astrobiology science on Mars and 5) sample acquisition, collection and caching of suitable samples by rover platforms containing sample acquisition hardware: first Cliffbot, then Athena. As well as testing ESA instrumentation for the ExoMars mission and NASA instruments for Mars Science Laboratory, the goals and technologies used during this 2011 campaign are very similar to that proposed by the current MEPAG MAX-C mission concept and therefore set the stage for future sample return missions. As such the field-tested technologies, procedures and protocols can be used to address specific science objectives proposed for the 2018 Mars mission opportunity. As NASA and ESA enter a new era of collaboration, AMASE has provided and will continue to provide, a test bed for both current in-situ robotic missions and Mars Sample Return mission architectures. AMASE has proved to be a unique platform to build understanding and collaboration amongst scientists and engineers from Europe and the USA.

Science instrument deployment on Svalbard in 2011 and was as follows;

1) Evolved Gas Analysis, SAM analogue instrumentation, – Amy McAdam, (Goddard Space Flight Centre (GSFC)).
2) Cavity Ring Down spectroscopy for CO2 concentration and Carbon isotope analysis – Analogue of the tunable laser spectrometer on SAM – Jen Stern (GSFC).
3) Mars Organic Molecular Analyzer (MOMA) – Field deployable system analogue for ExoMars mission – Fred Goesmann (Max Planck Institute), Sandra Siljestrom (SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden) Caroline Freissinet (GSFC).
4) Raman and infra-red spectroscopy – Pablo Sobron (Canadian Space Agency).
5) X-ray Diffraction – Analogue for CheMin on MSL – Dave Blake (ARC), Steve Squyres (Cornell) and Tom Bristow (ARC).
6) Panoramic Camera and Visible light spectroscopy, ExoMars – Nicole Schmitz (DLR), Arnold Bauer (DLR) and Steve Pugh (Aberyswyth University).
7) Close up imaging system (GLUPI from ExoMars), Fabien Jordan, Laureline Josset (Space Exploration Institute).
8) ATP, LAL and PCR bioload assessment instrumentation – Mihaela Glamoclija and Verena Starke (Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW).
9) Sample crusher and sample distribution system, ExoMars, – Tor Viscor (Kayser Threde).
10) Sample curation and data management – Francis McCubbin (Uni of New Mexico), Garret Huntress (CIW).

This years goals were split into five field sites with primary science goals around the detection and characterization of clay rich lithologies associated with sulfates, basalts and carbonates for mineralogy, organic inventory and preservation potential.

Field Sites
Test sites (Fig. 1) were selected based on scientific- and logistic criteria:
ALH84001 type abiogenic carbonate deposits at the Sverrefjell volcanic ridge in the Bockfjord Volcanic Complex
Biogenic carbonate deposits represented by fossil permian bioherms and sulfate rich playa deposits at Collethogda
Oxidized Red bed Devonian fluvial deposits in Bockfjorden
Hyaloclastic mafic clay minerals associated with basalts, carbonates and gypsum deposits at Scott Keltie
Organic rich mafic clay minerals from Botniahalvoya

The highlights of this years activities are as follows;

  • Deployment and testing of 6 Mars bound instruments in Svalbard including; SAM, CheMin, (from MSL) PanCam, MOMA, SPDS Rock Crusher and CLUPI (from ExoMars).
  • Compared and contrasted mafic clay minerals from several sites for mineralogy and organic inventory.
  • In-field characterization of a series of samples (include, mineralogy, modern microbial load, organic geochemistry and isotope geochemistry), to enable the scientific distinction of abiotic verses biotic input to the organic inventory of each site.
  • Development of successful curation and data management software.

Figure 1A) – PanCam deployed at Scott Keltie site, B) CheMin deployed at Botnaihalvoya site. Images courtesy of AMASE 2011 and K.O. Storvick