2019 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition:

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The Next Generation Planetary Exploration Geophysical System


NASA tested PEGS, Planetary Exploration Geophysical Systems, over three years from 2004-2006, at Meteor Crater and during the summer season in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica. The concept behind these tests was the field evaluation of state of the art wireless active seismic exploration systems. Consideration of mass, volume, power, and operational independence were key considerations. Lessons learned from previous active seismic experiments conducted during the Apollo missions were integrated into the evaluation. These Apollo experiments relied on refraction analysis to model the near surface. Subsequently, reflection analysis was applied after the data was archived into an industry standard format. The analysis provided a highly accurate model of the acoustic layers and propagation velocities at the Apollo sites. Likewise, the same analysis was applied to the PEGS data with similar success.

Since these field tests were conducted, numerous technology innovations have driven the availability of off the shelf wireless systems. In particular, fully autonomous nodal systems offer the opportunity for acquisition in remote terrain over long periods. These systems rely on less mass (<200 g per node), less volume (less than 14 cm in height and 4.5 cm in diameter), longer operational duration (24 hours over 30 days), and the integration into a GNSS offers unprecedented timing and spatial accuracy.

We discuss the operational possibilities for extending the active seismic exploration of the Moon and Mars. In particular, we discuss plans to develop and operate the next generation wireless nodal system, PEGS, integrated with a lunar or Martian equivalent GNSS, and deployed via autonomous drone or robotic system, all controlled by a geoscientist astronaut from a remote base. We will show that an active seismic experiment is practical and essential for any future lunar and planetary missions. The data from these missions hold the greatest potential for understanding the subsurface.