During August and September of 2011, a team of scientists and engineers traveled to an impact crater at Mistastin Lake, known locally as Kamestastin Lake, Labrador, where they ran analogue human and robotic sample return mission scenarios. An ‘astronaut’ team was deployed and conducted a series of investigations in the area surrounding the lake supported by a robotic assistant in form of a rover. Ultimately the ‘astronaut’-robotic team gathered relevant scientific data more effectively than either could achieve independently.
“Astronaut” Raymond driving the rover towards an outcrop. Credit: CLRN
The Mistastin Lake crater was chosen because it is expected to have the same structure and geology as the future mission target: the Moon’s South Pole Aitken (SPA) basin. Mistastin Lake is one of the only identified Earth based impact structures to have a similar rock composition to the Moon’s south pole. This rock is similar to the lighter material seen on the Moon and is called anorthosite. This makes Mistastin Lake an extremely relevant analogue site for Moon missions in general. Studying impact craters is important because craters are the most common physical feature on planetary bodies in the solar system. Because impacts puncture the surface of planets they can provide information about the material beneath the surface without drilling.
Conducting analogue missions like this one allows scientists to determine not only what kind of samples they would encounter on the Moon, but which instruments are best-suited to help them determine which samples should be returned to Earth for further analysis. The ‘astronauts’ will be able to do a quick intuitive assessment of the quality of the samples they select, something that would not be done in a purely robotic mission. Data were be relayed back to mission control, at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, throughout the mission.
This is the 3rd of 3 deployments contracted by the Canadian Space Agency for the investigation of the formation processes and resource potential of impact craters. This is the second deployment to Mistastin Lake and represents a follow-up to that initial mission which was used to test only a robotic concept without ‘astronauts’.
The navigation LiDAR (black box on the front of the rover) with a cliff and campsite behind. Credit: CLRN
Here you can read all about the most recent activities at the Analogue Mission from the field and at mission control. Check back daily for updates about instruments, pictures, and to read the latest mission updates).
The Canadian Lunar Research Network (CLRN) was NLSI’s first Affiliate partner and has led the effort to develop NLSI’s future field school program. CLRN is comprised of 14 institutions, including two industrial collaborators, and is based out of the University of Western Ontario. Their research focuses on lunar dust and regolith and the effect on robotic and human exploration systems, isotopic analyses of lunar materials, shock processes in lunar samples and terrestrial analog samples, and impact ejecta emplacement processes.
Posted by: Soderman/NLSI Staff
Source: NLSI team; http://cpsx.uwo.ca/archives/3512