Course Description (3 credits)
This course covers the requirements and design considerations for EVA systems and tools for conducting planetary field geology. Included are an introduction to field science in the context of geology; an overview of the processes that shape the surface environments of Mars and Earth’s moon; a survey of historical planetary surface geologic exploration by robots and humans; and a survey of historical EVA systems and tools used for human surface science. Emphasis will be on analyzing the constraints placed by human factors, the EVA environment, science tasks, etc. upon the design and implementation of EVA suits, tools, and procedures for effective and efficient field science operations on planetary surfaces.
The purpose of this course is to provide the student with a foundational understanding of the requirements, methods, and limitations of conducting geologic field work during EVAs on planetary surfaces such as the Moon and Mars.
Course Performance Objectives
Upon completion of the course the students will be able to:
- Describe and demonstrate basic field geology skills, including quantitative and qualitative observations of geologic materials and structures.
- Discuss and demonstrate the importance of maintaining geologic situational awareness and recording geologic context for conducting effective and efficient geologic field work.
- Discuss and demonstrate the importance of traverse planning and the flexible execution of field plans while conducting geologic field work.
- Describe the primary geologic processes responsible for shaping planetary surfaces such as that of Mars and the Moon.
- Discuss some of the fundamental, high-priority open questions about Mars and the Moon that can be addressed using field geology.
- Describe the physical environments (atmosphere, geology, topography, etc.) of Mars and the Moon, particularly with regard to constraints, limitations, and opportunities for surface science EVAs.
- Review past efforts for conducting field geology on Mars and the Moon during missions using robotic (e.g. MER, MSL, etc.) and human (e.g. Apollo) assets, particularly with regard to EVA suits, tools, and procedures used and how they affected the science return of those missions
- Review past and current Earth analog field research and training campaigns, particularly with regard to EVA suit, tool, and procedure design for next-generation planetary geologic field work.
- Analyze and discuss the considerations for the design, fabrication, deployment, and evaluation of a geologic tool (and associated use procedures, test protocols, field traverse plans, etc.) to be used during a planetary surface EVA, to include science task requirements; environmental, ergonomic, safety and other limitations; mission constraints such as mass, power, time, etc.
- Design, fabricate, test and evaluate a geologic tool (and associated use procedures, test protocols, field traverse plans, etc.) to be used during a planetary surface EVA.
- Discuss and demonstrate the practical considerations involved in planning and executing a field campaign at a planetary analog site.
Selected readings from published articles
Weeks 1-2. Introduction to geology and planetary geologic processes
Week 3. Geology and surface environment of the Moon, including open science questions
Week 4. Geology and surface environment of Mars, including open science questions
Weeks 5-6. Planetary field geology: terrestrial field geology; past efforts and lessons learned from Apollo to MSL; current efforts and lessons learned at analog sites
Week 7-8: Martian Atmospheres
Weeks 9-10. Analysis, design, and fabrication of geologic tools for field testing; traverse planning
Fabrication of test tools by Integrated Spaceflight (4 weeks)
The online portion of the course will be followed by a ~1-week capstone field experience in the San Francisco Volcanic Field (SFVF), just north of Flagstaff, AZ. This area has been used extensively in the past for a number of NASA analog mission simulations and NASA-funded geologic research related to planetary field exploration. Students will be introduced to basic field science practice in the context of geologic observations and sample collection. Field work will also involve testing of prototype surface EVA suits and tools in the scientifically relevant analog setting of the SFVF.