31st Annual Meeting of the DPS, October 1999
Session 46. Mars Surface: Evidence of Change Posters
Poster Group II, Thursday-Friday, October 14, 1999, , Kursaal Center

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[46.04] The 1999 Silver Lake Marsokhod Field Test: Simulation of a Mars Rover Sample Return Mission

C.R. Stoker, N. Cabrol (NASA Ames Research Center)

A Mars Rover Sample Return mission was simulated in February, 1999 in the Mojave desert using the Marsokhod rover. The rover payload included a color stereo imager (0.3 mrad/pix resolution, 25 cm stereo baseline on pan and tilt platform at 150 cm height), three sets of navigation cameras (monochrome stereo 1 mrad/pix), a manipulator arm carrying a close-up camera, a Visible/Near Infrared spectrometer (0.35-2.5 Ám wavelength range) boresighted with the left color camera. Also included in the simulation were simulated Descent Images, a Thermal Emission Spectrometer (8-14 Ám wavelength range) and a simulation of the 2001 Surveyor Mission Robotic Arm Camera. A science team, with no prior knowledge of the test site, participated in the mission simulation conducted at NASA Ames Research Center for 3 weeks. Daily communication cycles transmitted 40 Mbits of data collected by the rover instruments. The rover mission simulated 16 sols on Mars, the rover traversed over 80 m, and acquired 2172 color images, 520 navigation images, 6 arm camera images, 238 NIR spectra, and 18 TIR spectra, for a total data volume of 1024 Mbits. Samples were collected and, subsequent to the field experiment, subjected to petrographic analyses. The science team used the data sets to derive a largely correct interpretation of the geology and mineralogy of the site. The synergism between imaging and spectral data sets in achieving correct and complete interpretations was strongly demonstrated by the experiment. The science team correctly identified a green layer and spectral signature of chlorophyll associated with chasmoendolithic biota in a rock at the field site and designated it for collection. This correct identification of a type of life form that could plausibly be found on Mars demonstrates that rover missions can play a significant role in the search for life on Mars.

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