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Field and laboratory validation of remote rover operations Science Team findings: The CanMars Mars Sample Return analogue mission

Caudill, Christy M. and Osinski, Gordon R. and Pilles, Eric and Sapers, Haley M. and Pontefract, Alexandra J. and Francis, Raymond and Duff, Shamus and Laughton, Joshua and O'Callaghan, Jonathan and Sopoco, Racel and Tolometti, Gavin and Tuite, Michael and Williford, Kenneth H. and Xie, Tianqi (2019) Field and laboratory validation of remote rover operations Science Team findings: The CanMars Mars Sample Return analogue mission. Planetary and Space Science, 176 . Art. No. 104682. ISSN 0032-0633. doi:10.1016/j.pss.2019.06.006.

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The CanMars Mars Sample Return Analogue Deployment (MSRAD) was a closely simulated, end-to-end Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission scenario, with instrumentation, goals, and constraints modeled on the upcoming NASA Mars 2020 rover mission; this paper reports on the post-mission validation of the exercise. The exercise utilized the CSA Mars Exploration Science Rover (MESR) rover, deployed to Utah, USA, at a Mars-analogue field site. The principal features of the field site located near Green River, Utah are Late Jurassic inverted, fluvial paleochannels, analogous to features on Mars in sites being considered for the ESA ExoMars rover mission and present within the chosen landing site for the Mars 2020 rover mission. The in-simulation (“in-sim”) mission operations team worked remotely from The University of Western Ontario, Canada. A suite of MESR-integrated and hand-held spectrometers was selected to mimic those of the Mars 2020 payload, and a Utah-based, on-site team was tasked with field operations to carry out the data collection and sampling as commanded by the in-sim team. As a validation of the in-sim mission science findings, the field team performed an independent geological assessment. This paper documents the field team's on-site geological assessment and subsequent laboratory and analytical results, then offers a comparison of mission (in-sim) and post-mission (laboratory) science results. The laboratory-based findings were largely consistent with the in-sim rover-derived data and geological interpretations, though some notable exceptions highlight the inherent difficulties in remote science. In some cases, available data was insufficient for lithologic identification given the absence of other important contextual information (e.g., textural information). This study suggests that the in-sim instruments were largely adequate for the Science Team to characterize samples; however, rover-based field work is necessarily hampered by mobility and time constraints with an obvious effect on efficiency but also precision, and to some extent, accuracy of the findings. The data show a dearth of preserved total organic carbon (TOC) – used as a proxy for ancient biosignature preservation potential – in the fluvial-lacustrine system of this field site, suggesting serious consideration with respect to the capabilities and opportunities for addressing the Mars exploration goals. We therefore suggest a thorough characterization of terrestrial sites analogous to those of Mars rover landing sites, and in-depth field studies like CanMars as important, pre-mission strategic exercises.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Pilles, Eric0000-0001-5639-9493
Sapers, Haley M.0000-0002-1797-1722
Laughton, Joshua0000-0001-8289-1182
Williford, Kenneth H.0000-0003-0633-408X
Additional Information:© 2019 Published by Elsevier. Received 16 February 2018, Revised 24 April 2019, Accepted 14 June 2019, Available online 19 June 2019. We thank the CSA and the CanMars team for the dedication and long hours spent which made this mission a reality. Our international guests (from NASA, UKSA, DLR, and other institutions) aided us in making this a high-fidelity analogue mission and helped us make most of this opportunity for future MSR efforts. The CSA Mars Exploration Science Rover (MESR) used in this exercise was built by MDA Maxar. The analogue mission was carried out in partnership between the Canadian Space Agency and the Center for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) at the University of Western Ontario, as part of the NSERC CREATE project “Technologies and Techniques for Earth and Space Exploration” ( We would also like to acknowledge Hans van ‘t Woud of Blackshore and its partners, including European Space imaging and EuroMoonMars research for the use of the colour Quickbird-2 image that covers the CanMars analogue mission site. KHW and MLT acknowledge the support of a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for work performed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Subject Keywords:Mars; Rover; Analogue mission; Sample return; Mission operations
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20190620-093002297
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Official Citation:Christy M. Caudill, Gordon R. Osinski, Eric Pilles, Haley M. Sapers, Alexandra J. Pontefract, Raymond Francis, Shamus Duff, Joshua Laughton, Jonathan O'Callaghan, Racel Sopoco, Gavin Tolometti, Michael Tuite, Kenneth H. Williford, Tianqi Xie, Field and laboratory validation of remote rover operations Science Team findings: The CanMars Mars Sample Return analogue mission, Planetary and Space Science, Volume 176, 2019, 104682, ISSN 0032-0633, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:96579
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:20 Jun 2019 16:58
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 17:22

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