Science Seminars

10/13/2011 – Planetary Mission Field Tests: Attempts to Maximize Scientific Return

Date: Thursday, Oct 13, 2011
Time: Brian Hynek , LASP
Location: Duane Physics Bldg, D-142

Seminar Abstract:

Earth provides a testbed for fine tuning crewed and robotic mission concepts prior to their launch. I have been participating in several NASA-funded projects that assess the scientific return from various mission scenarios. For example, last month we assessed the potential for quality science data for a proposed crewed landing on an asteroid. In this test, the mission was run from Mission Control at Johnson Space Center while the planetary rovers and astronauts were conducting extra-vehicular activities on lava flows in northern Arizona. Obviously, the surface of an asteroid is quite different than Arizona, but we were able to test operational constraints such as time-delayed communications, bandwidth issues, and limited mobility on low-g surfaces in terms of their impacts on science return. In a different study, we tested the scientific utility of robotic operations of the lunar surface in glacial moraines in Alaska. Finally, I will discuss our pursuits in working with prototype instruments that will be destined for planetary surfaces in the coming years. This includes working in active volcanoes to test a prototype of a mineralogy instrument that is on the 2011 Mars Science Laboratory and also novel high resolution imaging systems for future planetary rovers. The talk will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various mission concepts and instruments and our efforts to maximize scientific return when they eventually fly.