The FINESSE (Field Investigations to Enable Solar System Science and Exploration) team is focused on a science and exploration field-based research program aimed at generating strategic knowledge in preparation for the human and robotic exploration of the Moon, near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) and Phobos & Deimos. We infuse our science program with leading edge exploration concepts since “science enables exploration and exploration enables science.”
The primary research objectives of our Science and Exploration programs are as follows:
1) FINESSE Science: Understand the effects of volcanism and impacts as dominant planetary processes on the Moon, NEAs, and Phobos & Deimos.
2) FINESSE Exploration: Understand which exploration concepts of operations (ConOps) and capabilities enable and enhance scientific return.
To accomplish these objectives, we conduct an integrated research program focused on scientifically-driven field exploration. Our research is accomplished through a sequenced field program at two strategically chosen field sites. Fieldwork will be conducted at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho and at the West Clearwater Lake Impact Structure in northern Canada. These sites have been chosen to address scientific questions pertaining to volcanism and impact science, respectively, as geologic analogs to the SSERVI Target Bodies.
These terrestrial volcanic and impact records remain invaluable for our understanding of these processes throughout our Solar System, since these are our primary source of first hand knowledge on volcanic landform formation and modification as well as the three-dimensional structural and lithological character of impact craters. Impact cratering, for example, is the dominant geological process on the Moon, asteroids, and moons of Mars. Our scientific objectives are to understand the origin and emplacement of impactites, the history of impact bombardment in the inner Solar System, the formation of complex impact craters, and the effects of shock on planetary materials. Volcanism is another dominant geologic process that has significantly shaped the surface of planetary bodies. We will study the processes, geomorphic features and rock types related to fissure eruptions, volcanic constructs, lava tubes, flows and pyroclastic deposits.
We will conduct scientific fieldwork under simulated lunar, NEA, and Phobos & Deimos mission constraints to evaluate strategically selected ConOps and capabilities regarding their anticipated value for future human-robotic scientific exploration. Throughout this field program, the assessment of our ConOps and capabilities will focus on understanding how and if each element of our research architecture leads to an acceptable level of science return. Our assessments will be systematically conducted at increasing levels of detail using a variety of quantitative and qualitative evaluation methods.
FINESSE is composed of a world-class team of scientists, robotics and exploration subject experts, astronauts and operations specialists. We also infuse a variety of Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) activities into this unique project to bring the excitement of this science and exploration work to a broader community.