Status Report

NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Report: Getting Samples – 11 August 2006

By SpaceRef Editor
August 22, 2006
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NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Report: Getting Samples – 11 August 2006


Today the helicopter came in! The hike to our first site on the volcano was much shorter than the one in Ebbadalen, but since we had the use of a helicopter we took the opportunity to fly around the volcano for some excellent photo ops and used it to carry our heavier instruments out to the field. Kindly, Paul decided to stay on the ship with our GCMS and run the samples we had collected at Ebbadalen. Oliver and I were the in the first helicopter ride out to the lower flank of Sverrefjell. It was a warm, sunny morning with hardly a breeze. The helicopter ride was fantastic. I don’t think I’ve ever been in one before, and after so many airplane rides it is a very strange sensation to see your self lifting vertically off the ground and then gently gliding away.

Once at the site, Oliver and I quickly began collecting the samples we had in mind. Since expedition members have been here before we had a good idea of what the site contained and what samples we should be sure to get. The outcrop on the lower flank is essentially basalt cinders containing olivine xenoliths. The famous carbonate spherules that are seen in the martian meteorite ALH84001 are also found in the basalt and olivine xenoliths found here at Sverrefjell. This commonality is what first led researchers to visit Svalbard as a Mars Analogue location.

Late in the afternoon, I was sitting with Libby on the ridge above the outcrop keeping watch for polar bears. In our boredom, we began sculpting Svalbard fauna out of the aluminum foil our lunch sandwiches had been wrapped in. I created a polar bear and ptarmigan and Libby made an artic fox.

We must have summoned the animal spirits or something with our sculptures because on our walk home (the helicopter had to return to Longyearbyen right after lunch, leaving us to walk back to the shore) we heard word that a polar bear was spotted 1 km down the shore. This was a great enough distance we were in no immediate danger and quickly hurried to the shore and back onto the ship. The crew of Lance kept an eye on the polar bear, however. It stayed about 1 km away and was only vaguely visible through binoculars on the ship. It appeared to have recently eaten a large dinner and was resting on the shore. We could see the white speck in the distance for a few hours and there was discussion of tomorrows trip to the volcano getting canceled if the bear stayed so close. Mid-evening, however, it moved out of site and plans to return to the volcano tomorrow are back on. We’ll see what the polar bear status is in the morning.

Kirsten Fristad
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

About Kirsten Fristad in her own words…

My name is Kirsten Fristad. I am a budding planetary scientist working in the highly talented Sample Analysis of Mars (SAM) Lab at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. I graduated from Macalester College in 2005 with a major in geology and core in astronomy knowing I wanted to pursue a research career in planetary science. Through summer internships with several planetary scientists, I developed a background in analyzing martian and lunar planetary remote sensing data and Mars analog field work in Alaska. Since starting at Goddard in May, I have been organizing the Goddard/SAM Team contribution to AMASE 2006. I will continue working in the SAM lab until fall 2007 when I will commence graduate studies in a yet to be decided location to pursue a PhD in planetary science.

Before starting at Goddard in May 2006, I worked and traveled around Australia, coached high school hurdlers, and pondered the mysteries of the universe. Aside from pondering, I love to laugh, dance, listen to music from the ’80s, and travel to remote locations. I’m really hoping I can make a career of this expedition thing.

SpaceRef staff editor.