PolAres Science

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:

L.I.F.E. Fluoreszenzlaser (Univ. Innsbruck/OeWF) an Bord des MAGMA-Rovers bei einem Labortest.

L.I.F.E. fluorescence laser (Univ. Innsbruck/OeWF) on board of the MAGMA-Rover during a laboratory test.

  • Development of a Mars simulation Rover (Phileas),
  • of a Mars spacesuit simulator (Aouda)
  • research of contamination vectores during exploration
  • Development and optimization of structured process to coordinate field crew and Mission Support Center

 

Program Concept

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

 

Science Background

Analog Astronaut training: Sebastian Sams demonstrates the set-up for the communication infrastructure.

Analog Astronaut training: Sebastian Sams demonstrates the set-up for the communication infrastructure.

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.

Preparation of a microspherule probe to determine the contamination vectors.

Preparation of a microspherule probe to determine the contamination vectors.

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