Mono Lake and Mars

Sunday, October 3, 2010.
Mono Lake, California.

Credit: Henry Bortman

Astrobiology Magazine’s field research editor, Henry Bortman, is back at Mono Lake this week. He’s observing a group of scientists and engineers who are field-testing a prototype of a rover-based sample-collection system for a possible future mission to Mars. Engineers from the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and a team of scientists based at the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW) in Washington, D.C., are working together to analyze what problems crop up when the system, designed and built at JPL, attempts to drill into rocks selected by the scientists, obtain small cores from within the rocks, and stash the cores in a sealed container – all with minimal human intervention.

Shown here, JPL software engineer Matt DiCicco (left) and JPL mechanical engineer Paulo Younse, check out the rover’s operation in the parking lot of the Mono Lake Visitor’s Center. The morning run-through was successful, but the threat of thunderstorms forced postponement of a planned attempt to collect a sample core in the field later in the day.

Credit: Henry Bortman

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