Mission Concepts for Accessing and Sampling High-Risk Terrain
March 30-31, 2009
Some of the richest potential science targets for future planetary exploration missions are sited in terrains that are largely inaccessible to state-of-the-art robots, thereby limiting our ability to carry out in situ sampling and analysis. For example, bright new deposits have been discovered several hundred meters below the rims of steep craters in the Terra Sirenum and Centauri Montes regions on Mars. While the Opportunity rover has imaged layers of bedrock in the vertical promontories of Cape St. Vincent in Victoria crater, these geological features are currently inaccessible to conventional sampling methods. High-resolution images of stratified deposits of ice and dust captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal a very challenging terrain. The recently reported large methane plumes rise over heavily cratered terrains in the Arabia Terra and Syrtis Major regions of Mars. The surfaces of Titan, Europa, Enceladus, and the Earth’s moon also offer challenging surface features. All of these geological features require a new generation of robots to access the challenging terrains in order to probe, sample and measure. Direct access to these complex terrains may enable new inquiries that could lead to significant scientific rewards.
For questions contact: Michele Judd