Rift faults and volcanic vents commonly host hot springs and, over billions of years of Earth history, travertines have preserved evidence of life. Elsewhere in the solar system such deposits constitute key astrobiological targets as possible habitats for early life forms; thus, sampling and investigation of actively accumulating and older travertines in the Rio Grande rift now receive increased emphasis. In 1999 NASA began instruction in field geophysical methods, and astronaut teams have now acquired ~40 km of high-quality gravity data and 6 km of magnetic data, in the course of a planetary exploration simulation. In addition to teaching methods for subsurface scientific investigation, both the gravimetric and the magnetic surveys were executed to help delineate buried structures that influence ground-water flow and accumulation in the arid Taos valley. Participants learned techniques with direct relevance for lunar exploration, from data acquisition through interpretation and planning future traverses, incorporating data from prior surveys.
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