An over-arching goal of the multi-year Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains (BASALT) project is to iteratively develop, implement, and evaluate concepts of operations (ConOps) and supporting capabilities intended to enable and enhance human exploration of Mars. Geological and biological scientific fieldwork is being conducted during four total deployments at two high-fidelity Mars analogs, all within simulated Mars mission conditions that are based on current architectural assumptions for Mars exploration missions. Specific capabilities being evaluated include the use of mobile science platforms, extravehicular informatics, communication and navigation packages, advanced science mission planning tools, and scientifically-relevant instrument packages to achieve the project goals. This paper describes the planning, execution, and results of the first field deployment, referred to as BASALT 1, which consisted of a series of 12 simulated extravehicular activities (EVAs) on the lava terrains of Craters of the Moon, Idaho. Scientific objectives of the EVAs related to determination of how microbial communities and habitability correlate with the physical and geochemical characteristics of chemically-altered basalt environments. The concept of operations (ConOps) and capabilities deployed and tested during BASALT 1 were based on extensive data from previous NASA trade studies and analog testing, and the primary research question was whether those ConOps and capabilities would work acceptably when performing real (non-simulated) biological and geological scientific exploration under four different communication scenarios. Specifically, communication latencies of 5 and 15 minutes one-way light time (OWLT) were tested; these delays fall within the range of 4 to 22 minute OWLT delays that would be experienced during a Mars mission. Science operations were also conducted under low bandwidth conditions (0.512 Mb/s uplink, 1.54 Mb/s downlink), representing a conservative and affordable flight data rate, and a higher bandwidth case (5.0 Mb/s uplink, 10.0 Mb/s downlink), representing an upgraded human mission capability that would require additional infrastructure and technology development. In all conditions, two EVA crewmembers communicated with two intravehicular (IV) crewmembers with high bandwidth and near-zero communication latency, simulating communication among crewmembers on Mars. EVA crewmembers wore simulated EVA informatics backpacks including communication systems, position tracking, hand-held field spectrometers, cameras, and sample collection tools. Bidirectional communication between crewmembers ("Mars") and a Mission Support Center ("Earth"), staffed by a team of science and operations experts, was subject to the aforementioned latency and bandwidth constraints. This paper presents the synthesized results of the BASALT 1 deployment with respect to ConOps and capabilities assessment. Evaluation of the ConOps and capabilities was accomplished through a combination of network analytical data, completion of scientific objectives, ethnographic observations, planned versus actual timeline data, and collection of subjective ratings and comments using the same methodology employed during multiple previous NASA analog tests. In addition to assessing the acceptability of the ConOps and capabilities from scientific and operational perspectives, the extent to which specific capabilities enabled or enhanced the science operations was also evaluated. These data will provide a basis for prioritization of capability development for future BASALT deployments and, ultimately, future human exploration missions.
Man/System Technology and Life Support
Space Transportation and Safety
IEEE Aerospace Conference 2017; 4-11 Mar. 2017; Big Sky, MT; United States