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Scientists and researchers are conducting the Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition (AMASE) 2007 in Svalbard, Norway, from August 12-26.

The objective of the expedition is to study an extreme Mars-like environment using instruments and techniques that may be used for future planetary missions. The goal is to understand how this harsh environment is conducive to life by studying the geology, geophysical features, biosignatures, and possible life forms of volcanic complexes, warm springs, and sedimentary deposits; settings thought by researchers to be analogous to sites on ancient Mars.

While the expedition is underway, researchers will live and work on Lance, a ship turned science lab. The ship is run by the Norwegian Polar Institute and is operated primarily in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Experiments performed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center scientists during this second of three AMASE expeditions, will help them prepare to operate the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) set to launch in 2009.

Paul Mahaffy, Chief of Goddard’s Atmospheric Experiment Laboratory, will participate in the expedition along with Jen Eigenbrode and Kirsten Fristad, also members of the Lab. Mahaffy is the principal investigator for the SAM instrument suite, which is being assembled at Goddard.

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. This year, many of the science operations will be conducted under a Mars mission operations model. Researchers will be able to collect soil and atmospheric samples remotely by directing a rover from the ship, similar to how they would control a rover on the surface of Mars from a control room on Earth.

AMASE consists of an international crew of scientists, engineers and filmmakers. Participating members hail from the Earth and Planetary Exploration Services, Carnegie Institute of Washington, Cornell University, Caltech, Unidad Asociada UVA-CSIC, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Ames Research Center, NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, European Space Agency, University of Leeds (UK), International Space Science Institute, Midtkandal GeoService, and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK). The AMASE expeditions began five years ago and are led by Hans Amundsen of Earth and Planetary Exploration Services. AMASE is currently supported by a NASA Astrobiology Science and Technology for the Exploration of Planets grant led by principal investigator Andrew Steele of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

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

Kirsten Fristad
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center