237-11 Using Remote Rover-Driven Methodology to Conduct Fieldwork on the Moon: Lessons Learned from Mars

Tuesday, 7 October 2008: 11:00 AM
George R. Brown Convention Center, 310AD
R. Aileen Yingst, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Green Bay, WI, Mariek Schmidt, Department of Meteorites, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC, DC, Rachel C.F. Lentz, Hawai`i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai'i, Honolulu, HI and Barbara Cohen, Lunar Precursor Robotics Program, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL
Differences between remote rover-driven and terrestrial geologic fieldwork affect the nature of the resulting dataset and what can be learned from that dataset. A unique methodology is required for rover studies, where methodology is defined as how, when, in what order and in what priority, instruments are used to answer scientific questions. Four years of rover operation on Mars using the Mars Exploration Rovers served as our template to test whether such a method of remote geology will optimize science return from a lunar rover mission.

To test methodology, no rover mock-up or science instruments were used. Instead, at each site we broke down observational "days" into detailed analysis of three targets of interest (drive time was ignored). Images mimicking a multispectral high-resolution stereo imager and a handlens-scale imager were taken using a professional SLR digital camera with interchangeable lens capability and megapixel imaging, coupled with a macro lens. Following data collection and analysis, the field team examined each site using traditional terrestrial field methods, facilitating comparison between what was revealed by human versus rover-inspired methods.

Preliminary results show that the benefits of the handlens as a convenient, effective triage tool are unavailable using current rover-driven methodology because handlens-type imagers cannot be deployed or used frequently. As such, it may be more effective to pursue ways to increase the number of handlens-scale images that can reasonably be taken and downlinked by a lunar rover. Also, characteristics diagnostic of the origin or evolution of a site must be plentiful and obvious for current methodology to be fully effective. More images at intermediate-scales would provide crucial contextual information in this regard. Future lunar rover missions might include dedicated rapid, low-power targeting imagers, or explicitly design field methods around the use of navigational instruments as lower-power options for targeting.