The interdisciplinary and international research program of the OeWF
PolAres is an interdisciplinary program of the Austrian Space Forum, in cooperation with international partners, to develop strategies for human-robotic interaction procedures and to emphasize planetary protection, in preparation for a future human-robotic Mars surface expedition. Based on experiences of simulated Mars expedition, like the AustroMars expedition in 2006 in the Mojave desert of Utah, PolAres consists of following elements:
First, in a scouting phase, possible Mars analogue sites in Europe and the neighboring Arctic are identified. In a second step, a stratospheric balloon will be constructed and launched both as a training project and as a precursor for the Rover phase. In a synergistic approach, hardware components like sensors and navigation elements shall be tested before being implemented on the Rover, which shall form the core of phase 3. In a fourth step, the man-machine interface between the rover and the analogue astronaut shall be tested, including interactivity requirements development and investigation.
Timeline: 2007 – ongoing
Program Lead: Austrian Space Forum
Mars once had the prerequisite necessary for the emergence of life. However, the search for these diminutive tracers of biology (if they ever existed) is a complex search for call-wall fragments, biologically precipitated minerals etc. There is a significant of contaminating the very samples scrutinized for those tracers of paleobiology.
Hence, the understanding of the potential contamination vectors is a mission critical technology. We are working with marked bacteria and fluorescence nano-particles – a technique developed originally during the OeWF AustroMars mission in 2006.
The distribution and migration patters of biological “payloads” is being investigated under realistic exploration scenarios – such as sampling by robotic vehicles, a hand-over to astronauts, but also contingency situations which might lead to a breach of the biological containment.
Analog research also mean that after a regional characterization of the geology and the (putative) biology, we compare our findings and hypotheses with the actual “ground truth” of that terrestrial Mars-analog site. This allows us to determine how much a human-robotic mission might have missed on Mars where we do not have that level of ground-truth and accessibility of a terrestrial setting.
Hence, using well known ground-truthed sites on Earth is an excellent instrument to evaluate the completeness of a sample and the effectiveness of an exploration strategy.
That’s what PolAres is about.
This article is available in: German