April 23, 2011 - May 7, 2011
CREW 104 OBJECTIVES
Crew 104’s objectives are to test an automated drilling system, and a manually operated “backpackable” drill system, using them to collect scientific drill cores in the context of a human exploration mission scenario, and to extend and infill geological and biological data collected during crews 83 and 92 to MDRS last season.
The drill rig is the MARTE system, that was previously field tested at Rio Tinto in Spain while integrated with a core processing system in a fully automated mission scenario. We aim to extend the use of this drill to the Mars analogue environments at MDRS, where the core handling can be accomplished by crew members. The drill targets are palaeo soils and channels identified by our previous (reconnaissance) mission (MARTE drill) as well as clay and sulphate rich targets in the area (Backpack drill).
Samples will have preliminary analysis by astrobiologists and geologist in the crew, including using the TERRA field-portable XRF/XRD machine, the terrestrial counterpart of the ChemMin instrument that will be flown to Mars on the MSL/Curiosity mission later this year.
The geologists and astrobiologists will also infill and extend understanding of Mars analogue aspects of soil mineralogy and microbiology and the spherical concretion-bearing inverted and exhumed palaeochannels in the vicinity of MDRS that were documented crew crews 83 and 92 and recently published in the International Journal of Astrobiology (Might include references here).
Experience and data gathered during this expedition will assist in the design, planning and operation of future Mars missions that will sample the subsurface, provide a better understanding of the interaction between soil mineralogy and chemistry and the microbial biota and its biosignature and how this can improve the detection of past life on Mars, and improve concepts for the diagenesis of Martian sediments and Martian landscape evolution.