Indexed on: 16 May '14Published on: 16 May '14Published in: Astrobiology
We report on the MARS2013 mission, a 4-week Mars analog field test in the northern Sahara. Nineteen experiments were conducted by a field crew in Morocco under simulated martian surface exploration conditions, supervised by a Mission Support Center in Innsbruck, Austria. A Remote Science Support team analyzed field data in near real time, providing planning input for the management of a complex system of field assets; two advanced space suit simulators, four robotic vehicles, an emergency shelter, and a stationary sensor platform in a realistic work flow were coordinated by a Flight Control Team. A dedicated flight planning group, external control centers for rover tele-operations, and a biomedical monitoring team supported the field operations. A 10 min satellite communication delay and other limitations pertinent to human planetary surface activities were introduced. The fields of research for the experiments were geology, human factors, astrobiology, robotics, tele-science, exploration, and operations research. This paper provides an overview of the geological context and environmental conditions of the test site and the mission architecture, in particular the communication infrastructure emulating the signal travel time between Earth and Mars. We report on the operational work flows and the experiments conducted, including a deployable shelter prototype for multiple-day extravehicular activities and contingency situations.