Polar Trek to Mars


Tuesday, February 03 2015 - 12:00 pm, PST
Pascal Lee
SETI Institute

Pressurized rovers are airtight all-terrain motorhomes in which future planetary explorers will live, work, sleep, and drive during multiple-day excursions far away from their home base. Although pressurized rovers are commonly featured in science-fiction lore and technical studies on paper, there is still very little practical experience with the use of such vehicles in terrestrial field exploration. Since 2003, the NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) has begun leading a series of field simulations of planetary pressurized rover traverses on Devon Island, High Arctic, a bleak and barren polar analog often described as Mars On Earth. As stand-ins for pressurized rovers, the HMP uses specially modified Humvees equipped with living quarters, satellite comms & nav systems, robotic arms, and spacesuit ports. Rover traverses at HMP are also set in a true field exploration operations environment in which dangers, while not as unforgiving as on Mars, are nevertheless real and relevant.

This talk summarizes the HMP’s experience with simulated pressurized rover treks to date, and lessons learned for planning future road trips on the Moon or Mars. Focus is placed on the HMP’s Northwest Passage Drive Expedition (2009-2011), an epic rover journey from the continental United States to Mars On Earth, across hundreds of kilometers of sea-ice along the fabled Northwest Passage. During the voyage, the expedition crew encountered conditions and challenges analogous in basic ways to those awaiting future pressurized rover crews on Mars: hostile environment, dust storm-like blizzards, uncertain route, treacherous terrain, equipment failure, tight crew quarters, limited resources, remoteness, and isolation.

While pressurized rover treks will dramatically expand the range and productivity of human planetary exploration, they will remain expeditions within an expedition. If not planned and implemented with care, they will quickly spell doom for their crews.

Eventbrite - Polar Trek to Mars

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