International team demonstrates a human crew drilling on Mars to search for habitable environments and life

A crew consisting of biologists, geologists and engineers from America, Australia, Peru, England, and Portugal deployed to a simulated Mars surface habitat in Southern Utah to perform a simulation of a human mission to Mars to look for life using state of the art drilling technology to acquire unaltered subsurface samples. The team used the MARTE drill, a prototype of a Mars drill capable of 10 m depth continuous core samples. Drilling was accomplished into sandstone rock that was identified based on geological field work as a fossil soil containing root casts and insect burrows created 150 M years ago. The MARTE drill acquired 63 cm of core with 90% recovery using aseptic technique. Core recovered was immediately transported to the Habitat and the field team immediately analyzed samples in the Habitat/ laboratory for mineralogy using a Terra XRD instrument, prototype of the MSL Chemin, for total organic content using chemical oxidation, and for presence of modern biology using Polymerase Chain reaction analysis.

Team members included:

Carol Stoker (SST, crew commander)

Jon Clarke (Austrailian Mars Society) Geologist

David Willson (Austrailian Mars Society) Habitat engineer

Jhony Zavaleta (Ames SG, Drill engineer)

Sara Thompson (Ames, Code C, software engineer)

Julio Valdivia Silva (Ames SST postdoc, organic analysis)

Luisas Rodrigues (ESA/Portugal graduate student, biologist)

Field Dates: April 24- May 8, 2011