NASA crew heads to Arctic Ocean to study … Mars

Scientists and researchers are spending two and a half weeks in Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean north of Norway. The objective of the Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition (AMASE) is to characterize the geology, geophysical features, biosignatures, and possible life forms of volcanic centers, warm springs, and perennial rivers, settings thought to be analogous to sites on ancient Mars. AMASE targets the Bockfjorden area of the Norwegian island of Svalbard, in hot-spring-deposited carbonate terraces. The equipment used in the field is adapted from off-the-shelf instruments to function in the frigid Svalbard temperatures and to detect and characterize low levels of microbiota and organic and mineralogical biomarkers rapidly. These tools assist in a real-time understanding of the environment and permit the team to gather pertinent samples and test hypotheses with minimal sample disturbance, and the sample acquisition and analysis methods are providing tests of protocols for experiments on future missions to Mars.

AMASE consists of an international crew of scientists, engineers and filmmakers. Participating members hail from the University of Oslo (PGP), Electromagnetic Geoservices (Norway), Carnegie Institute of Washington, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Ames Research Center, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Penn State, the Lunar and Planetary Institute, University of Indiana, Smithsonian Institution, University of Leeds (UK), International Space Science Institute and Optic Verve. AMASE first began four years ago led by Hans Amundsen of Physics of Geological Processes at the University of Oslo.

AMASE is made possible by the strong support of UNIS, the Polar Institute, and the Governor and people of Svalbard.

As the expedition progresses, check back here for updates from Svalbard. These ‘Notes from the Field’ will be published almost daily on weekdays during the research team’s time away in the Arctic. They are being written by Kirsten Fristad, a member of the Sample Analysis of Mars (SAM) Lab at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

About Kirsten Fristad in her own words…

Image of Kirsten FristadMy name is Kirsten Fristad. I am a budding planetary scientist working in the highly talented Sample Analysis of Mars (SAM) Lab at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. I graduated from Macalester College in 2005 with a major in geology and core in astronomy knowing I wanted to pursue a research career in planetary science. Through summer internships with several planetary scientists, I developed a background in analyzing martian and lunar planetary remote sensing data and Mars analog field work in Alaska. Since starting at Goddard in May, I have been organizing the Goddard/SAM Team contribution to AMASE 2006. I will continue working in the SAM lab until fall 2007 when I will commence graduate studies in a yet to be decided location to pursue a PhD in planetary science.

Before starting at Goddard in May 2006, I worked and traveled around Australia, coached high school hurdlers, and pondered the mysteries of the universe. Aside from pondering, I love to laugh, dance, listen to music from the ‘80s, and travel to remote locations. I’m really hoping I can make a career of this expedition thing….


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