We describe the field demonstration of astrobiology instruments and research methods conducted in and from the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah during the EuroGeoMars campaign 2009 coordinated by ILEWG, ESA/ESTEC and NASA Ames, with the contribution of academic partners. We discuss the entire experimental approach from determining the geological context using remote sensing, in situ measurements, sorties with sample collection and characterization, analysis in the field laboratory, to the post sample analysis using advanced laboratory facilities.
We present the rationale for terrestrial field campaigns to strengthen astrobiology research and the link between in situ and orbital remote sensing data. These campaigns are supporting the preparation for future missions such as Mars Science Laboratory, ExoMars or Mars Sample Return. We describe the EuroGeoMars 2009 campaign conducted by MDRS crew 76 and 77, focused on the investigation of surface processes in their geological context. Special emphasis was placed on sample collection and pre-screening using in-situ portable instruments. Science investigations included geological and geochemical measurements as well as detection and diagnostic of water, oxidants, organic matter, minerals, volatiles and biota.
EuroGeoMars 2009 was an example of a Moon–Mars field research campaign dedicated to the demonstration of astrobiology instruments and a specific methodology of comprehensive measurements from selected sampling sites. We discuss in sequence: the campaign objectives and trade-off based on science, technical or operational constraints. This includes remote sensing data and maps, and geological context; the monitoring of environmental parameters; the geophysical context and mineralogy studies; geology and geomorphology investigations; geochemistry characterization and subsurface studies.
We describe sample handling (extraction and collection) methods, and the sample analysis of soils and rocks performed in the MDRS laboratory using close inspection, initial petrological characterization, microscopy, Visible-NIR spectrometry, Raman spectrometry, X-ray diffraction/X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, soil analysis, electrochemical and biological measurements.
The results from post-mission analysis of returned samples using advanced facilities in collaborator institutes are described in companion papers in this issue. We present examples of in-situ analysis, and describe an example investigation on the exploration and analysis of endolithic microbial mats (from reconnaissance, in-situ imaging, sampling, local analysis to post-mission sample analysis).