Upcoming Mars Surveyor lander missions will include extensive spectroscopic capabilities designed to improve interpretations of the mineralogy and geology of landing sites on Mars. The 1999 Marsokhod Field Experiment (MFE) was a Mars rover simulation designed in part to investigate the utility of visible/near-infrared and thermal infrared field spectrometers to contribute to the remote geological exploration of a Mars analog field site in the California Mojave Desert. The experiment simultaneously investigated the abilities of an off-site science team to effectively analyze and acquire useful imaging and spectroscopic data and to communicate efficiently with rover engineers and an on-site field team to provide meaningful input to rover operations and traverse planning. Experiences gained during the MFE regarding effective communication between different mission operation teams will be useful to upcoming Mars mission teams. Field spectra acquired during the MFE mission exhibited features interpreted at the time as indicative of carbonates (both dolomitic and calcitic), mafic rocks and associated weathering products, and silicic rocks with desert varnish-like coatings. The visible/near-infrared spectra also suggested the presence of organic compounds, including chlorophyll in one rock. Postmission laboratory petrologic and spectral analyses of returned samples confirmed that all rocks identified as carbonates using field measurements alone were calc-silicates and that chlorophyll associated with endolithic organisms was present in the one rock for which it was predicted. Rocks classified from field spectra as silicics and weathered mafics were recognized in the laboratory as metamorphosed monzonites and diorite schists. This discrepancy was likely due to rock coatings sampled by the field spectrometers compared to fresh rock interiors analyzed petrographically, in addition to somewhat different surfaces analyzed by laboratory thermal spectroscopy compared to field spectra. Copyright 2001 by the American Geophysical Union.
Additional Publication Details
Geological characterization of remote field sites using visible and infrared spectroscopy: Results from the 1999 Marsokhod field test