Last week two researchers from the NASA Ames Planetary Systems Branch participated in the yearly NASA Desert RATS (Research and Technology Studies) analog field campaign at Black Point Lava Flow, Arizona to
test technologies and operational procedures for future human planetary exploration. The NASA hardware that was demonstrated included (among others): Space Exploration Vehicles a pair of rovers that astronauts lived in for 7 days at a time to conduct geologic fieldwork; Habitat Demonstration Unit/Pressurized Excursion Module a simulated habitat where the rovers docked to allow the crew room to perform experiments; Tri-ATHLETEs, or -Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer two heavy-lift rover platforms that robotically move large cargo (such as the habitat); and a suite of new geology sample collection tools, including a self-contained GeoLab glove box for conducting in-field analysis of various collected rock samples. Jennifer Heldmann served as the Lead for both the Tactical Science Operations Team (TSOT) to communicate with and guide the astronauts during their geologic fieldwork EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activities) and the Strategic Science Operations Team (SSOT) which planned daily traverses and geologic fieldwork plans for the astronauts. Margarita Marinova served as a member of the TSOT and SSOT plus followed the astronauts in the field to assess their scientific productivity.