Status Report

NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Report: Training & Testing – 7 August 2006

By SpaceRef Editor
August 7, 2006
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NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Report: Training & Testing – 7 August 2006


The last two days have been very busy with instrument testing, gathering last minute supplies and attending an arctic training course.

The cold temperatures here pose a serious challenge to our instruments here as it can greatly affect our power consumption, pressure readings and pumping capabilities. We were having some issues yesterday getting everything to work at ideal settings outside. But, with some clever math, a space blanket and some cardboard I think we’ve come up with a solution to our problem. Solving unexpected problems in the field with limited supplies always feels very satisfying!

The arctic training course today was both highly informative and entertaining. We had a very knowledgeable Norwegian leading the course who was still struggling a bit with his English which led to some now infamous lines. We learned that “cotton underwear is unlegal” and that its “not good to be seasick by yourself” on a ship. We also had rifle training today. With so many polar bears in Svalbard, every expedition is required to carry several rifles and every person going out must go through rifle training. Considering I hadn’t used a gun since my grandfather’s BB gun when I was eight, I had a lot to learn. The guns we trained on were 30.06 caliber and had a fairly strong kick. On one of my shots the bolt actually kicked all the way up to my cheek bone and left me a decent bruise! An interesting note, Svalbard is probably the only place in the world where you are allowed to take guns into a bank. In fact, if you are carrying a rifle you are required to take into the bank because it is not safe to leave it unattended outside. Most businesses in town provide handy rifle racks or lockers just inside the door for customers’ convenience.

It is very serious business killing polar bears around here and it is only allowed in extreme self-defense. Anyone who cannot prove they killed a polar bear only under threat of imminent attack gets a one-way ticket out of here, a hefty fine and are asked not to return. The polar bears are very dangerous though; as one of two animals known to hunt humans (I have heard varying stories on what the other animal is) and safety is taken very seriously here. We’re all prepared with flares, guns and a lesson in polar bear psychology. Apparently they always have a “smiling face”, even when they are attacking, unlike a dog or bear which have an obvious attack face. Polar bears are beautiful creatures, however, and I hope we can see one on our trip, albeit from a very safe distance.

Tonight we packed up all our instruments in preparation to load our research vessel the Lance tomorrow at midday. I can’t wait to get on the ship and start sailing farther north!!

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.