BLAM2011 – We’re at it again!
Surprise everybody! The CPSX Analogue Mission Team is at it again. We got some unexpected, but clearly welcome, funding from the Faculty of Science to conduct one more analogue deployment this year. As it’s gotten rather cold in Labrador over the past couple of months we’ve come to Arizona this time for a 3 day deployment at Meteor (Barringer) Crater, the best preserved and the first officially recognized impact crater on Earth.
This time the scenario involves two astronauts, Raymond Francis and Annemarie Pickersgill, exploring the area of the rim and ejecta blanket of a simple impact structure as a follow up to a robotic precursor mission which occurred last fall (2010). In conjunction with Mission Control the astronauts are investigating the stratigraphy of the crater (which lithological or rock units are the deepest exposed in the crater), how this stratigraphy is reflected in the ejecta blanket (the material surrounding the crater which was excavated during impact), and attempting to find melt rocks in order to determine the age of the crater through isotopic age dating.
A variety of instruments are being used by both teams. Remote sensing data includes multispectral images in the thermal infrared range, visible light images, and digital elevation models. Ground data is largely imagery based with the creation of 3D models of outcrops by a mobile Scene Modeller (mSM) provided by MDA, 2D digital images, X-ray fluorescence and Raman spectroscopy, and of course the eyes of the astronauts!
The biggest change from our last deployment is that thanks to the location of Meteor Crater near several cities we have near constant communications via USB HSPA modem (i.e. wireless internet via cell phone towers). This has allowed for some really interesting discussions between the astronauts and Mission Control, leading to more in depth investigation of the scientific hypotheses. At some points around the crater the connection is even good enough to transmit video so Mission Control can see what the astronauts see in real time, greatly increasing Mission Control’s understanding of the area.
Another big change is that for the first time we’re welcoming tours of Mission Control so people in the community can see how a mission is run, and maybe even get the chance to talk with the astronauts!
Day One of BLAM (the Barringer Lunar Analogue Mission) has gone quite well. Despite a slightly rainy start a reconnaissance traverse of the entire area was conducted and several spots were picked out for more detailed work. Stay tuned over the coming days to see some spectacular images and for updates about how the mission is going!
To read about our past missions, and to access the rest of this blog visit our analogue missions blog page.