NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

June 16, 1998


NASA scientists soon will explore a barren Arctic meteorite impact crater to attempt to learn more about Mars and its early history, while testing technologies useful for future robotic and human exploration of the planet.

From June 22 to July 26, a 20-member science team from NASA and several other research organizations will explore the Haughton Impact Crater and its surroundings on Devon Island in the Arctic Circle.

Scientists consider the site a potential Mars analog because many of its geologic features, such as the crater's ice-rich terrains, its ancient lake sediments and nearby networks of small valleys, resemble those reported at the surface of Mars. The site may shed light in particular on the early history of Mars, when the planet's climate may have been wetter and warmer.

"The cold, relatively dry, windy and unvegetated environment at the Haughton site is milder and wetter than present-day Mars, but it may give us an idea of what early Mars was like and how some of its surface features were formed," said Principal Investigator Dr. Pascal Lee of NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA.

During the expedition, Dr. Omead Amidi and other engineers from Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, Pittsburgh, PA, will conduct field tests of an experimental, robotic helicopter. "The mission provides a great opportunity to demonstrate the feasibility and the value of robotic aircraft for mapping and surveying applications," Amidi said.

Carnegie Mellon's small, 160-pound autonomous helicopter has vision-based stability and position control, as well as an onboard navigation computer, laser rangefinder and video system for site mapping. More information about the unpiloted helicopter may be found at the following website:

In addition to the tests with the autonomous helicopter, scientists also will conduct experiments with a ground-penetrating radar system, a field spectrometer, drilling equipment and a stereo camera.

The radar system will be deployed in an attempt to map ground-ice and other subsurface conditions within and outside the crater's 12- mile (20-kilometer) diameter. "The ability to find underground ice, both for human consumption and geologic studies, will be critical in the exploration of Mars," said Dr. Aaron Zent of Ames, Dr. Lee's post- doctoral research advisor.

Scientists will use a field spectrometer to determine the site's reflective qualities and better understand the crater's compositional evolution. In another experiment, scientists will use a portable drill to obtain core samples from ten feet deep in the frozen ground. Core samples of sediments from a lake that once occupied the crater will provide information about local climate evolution. Since the use of liquid drilling lubricants might be precluded on Mars, none will be used in this test.

A portable stereo camera system previously used by Carnegie Mellon's Nomad rover during its unprecedented 133-mile wheeled trek through Chile's Atacama Desert last summer will provide high- resolution images of the site, and produce images for a 360 degree photo-realistic virtual reality project being developed by Ames' Intelligent Mechanisms Group.

Using laptop computer systems and "mobile workstations" developed by Ames' Intelligent Mobile Technologies Team, scientists will communicate with other field team members and send live images via a wireless link. Team members will operate from a base camp on a terrace of the Haughton River within the crater's perimeter and explore the site with All-Terrain Vehicles. Supplies will be brought in by Twin Otter airplane, while a helicopter will aid exploration of remote sites.

As part of the expedition's educational outreach program, the following website will be updated regularly with new data and images as available:

The total cost of the project is $80,000. NASA is partially funding the project through a National Research Council grant. Additional support is provided by Ames Research Center; NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX; the Geological Survey of Canada; the Polar Continental Shelf Project of Canada; the Nunavut Research Institute, Canada; the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University; NovAtel Communications, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and the National Geographic Society.


For scientific research purposes only, of course.

Below is the request guidelines on how to obtain Antarctic meteorite samples from NASA's collection.

Ron Baalke

Antarctic Meteorite Sample Request Guidelines

All sample requests should be made in writing to:

Secretary, MWG
NASA/Johnson Space Center
Houston, TX 77058 USA.
FAX: (281) 483-5347

The Meteorite Working Group (MWG) meets twice a year; around April in Houston, Texas and around October in Washington, D.C. The deadline for submitting a request is generally three weeks before the scheduled meeting. Requests received after the deadline may possibly be delayed until the following MWG meeting. Questions pertaining to sample requests can be directed to the MWG Secratary by mail, FAX, or E-mail.

Requests for samples are welcomed from research scientists of all countries, regardless of their current state of funding for meteorite studies. Graduate student requests should be initialed or countersigned by a supervising scientist to confirm access to facilities for analysis. All sample requests will be reviewed in a timely manner. Those requests that do not meet the JSC Curatorial Guidelines (published in this issue), will be reviewed by the Meteoritie Working Group (MWG), a peer-review committee which meets twice a year to guide the collection, curation, allocation, and distribution of the U.S. collection of Antarctic meteorites. Issuance of samples does not imply a commitment by any agency to fund the proposed research. Requests for financial support must be submitted separately to the appropriate funding agencies. As a matter of policy, U.S. Antarctic meteorites are the property of the National Science Foundation and all allocations are subject to recall.

Each request should accurately refer to meteorite samples by their respective identification numbers and should provide detailed scientific justification for proposed research. Specific requirements for samples, such as sizes or weights, particular locations (if applicable) within individual specimens, or special handling or shipping procedures should be explained in each request. Requests for thin sections which will be used in destructive procedures such as ion probe, etch or even repolishing, must be stated explicitly. Consortium requests should be initialed or countersigned by a member of each group in the consortium. All necessary information should probably be condensable into a one- or two-page letter, although informative attachments (reprints of publication that explain rationale, flow diagrams for analyses, etc.) are welcome.

Samples can be requested from any meteorite that has been made available through announcement in any issue of the Antarctic Meteorite Newsletter (beginning with 1 (1) in June, 1978). Many of the meteorites have also been described in five Smithsonian Contr. Earth Sci.: Nos. 23, 24, 26, 28, and 30. A table containing all classification as of December 1993 is published in Meteoritics 29(1) p. 100-142 and updated as of April 1996 in Meteoritics and Planetary Science 31, p. A161-174. The most current listing is contained on this site:

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