Datapages, Inc.Print this page

Advanced Lunar Field Mapping and Sample Documentation

Schmitt, Harrison H.1
1 Engineering Physics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Albuquerque, NM.

Apollo 15-17 geological exploration and sample documentation resulted in excellent data on the spatial location and orientation of continuous observations and hundreds of lunar samples. Astronauts referenced each observation site and sample to existing overhead photography, through pre-mission planning of traverses, and to systematic stereo and location photography at each sampling area and along Lunar Roving Vehicle traverses. The use of a gnomon to establish the vertical, azimuth and scale for each stereo image pair, and a camera reseau plate to control film geometry, worked well but not nearly as efficiently as would have been desired. Advanced and far more efficient lunar field mapping and sample documentation technology should be employed when lunar field exploration resumes.

Documentation equipment immediately available to the astronaut geologist should include the following:

1. Helmet mounted, voice activated or automatic, electronic, stereo photo-documentation cameras that are photometrically and geometrically fully calibrated.

2. Helmet mounted, automatic position and elevation determination system, potentially integrated with a global satellite communications and navigation system or a local site specific relay and triangulation system

3. Helmet mounted laser-ranging device, aligned with the stereo camera axis.

4. Chest or helmet mounted, small digital image camera, hand and voice activated, photometrically and geometrically calibrated, that, along with an available Apollo-style gnomon provides ready backup to the above electronic systems.

Astronaut exploration efficiency would be significantly enhanced by voice activated, in-helmet displays or visor-projected heads-up-displays (HUD) that would provide "cuff checklists," exploration-related data, environmental control system and consumables status, etc. Further, hand-positioned, self-anchoring, portable geochemical sensors, such as Raman, XRF and Mössbauer units, for measuring concentrations of major or particularly diagnostic elements would enhance the explorers' sample selection and geological situational awareness.

Appropriate, detailed and efficient documentation of field observations and samples constitute the scientific foundation for most future investigations of the Moon and then Mars. NASA and the exploration community must concentrate on the design, development, test and integrated use of the systems that will provide this foundation.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90090©2009 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, Denver, Colorado, June 7-10, 2009