Status Report

NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Report: Welcome to Svalbard – 5 August 2006

By SpaceRef Editor
August 7, 2006
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NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Report: Welcome to Svalbard – 5 August 2006


The plane ride to Svalbard was unforgettable. At least the parts I was awake for were. Our plane left at 10pm to arrive at 1pm. Given my previous travels I was quite tired and dozed for the first two hours. I would wake up from time to time and Marc Fries sitting next to me would remark on the curious effect of seeing the Sun rise at midnight. As we flew north and crossed the Arctic Circle the Sun was rising and I realized I wouldn’t be experiencing any darkness for the next two and a half weeks. It is strange to see the Sun always in the sky but at such low angles. It casts a curiously long shadow and gives the arctic a peculiar look of being frozen in twilight. The light does change slightly, but it takes a while to notice the subtle differences.

Once we began flying over Svalbard the view was jaw-dropping. Seriously, I think I drooled all over the plane window. Below us were jagged dark brown mountain peaks and ridges draped in glaciers and snowfields and ice. Some glaciers were sparkling white while others were littered with black rocks and dust bounded by moraines. Where glaciers had melted there were perfectly carved U-shaped valleys and silt-filled lakes. The landscape of mountains and glaciers continued as far as I could see -completely devoid of any vegetation, just rock and snow. It was breathtaking.

The plane banked a few times, allowing both sides of the plane to take in the expansive beauty of the land. As we turned the last corner and began to descend we came into view of a small valley as it opened into a fjord. Beneath us lay scattered houses in bright colors. They stood wall to wall in little clumps. A barren and muddy beach held docks, warehouses and heavy machinery. The surrounding hillsides were littered with wooden support frames and coal mining equipment. We had arrived in Longyearbyen.

I’m kicking myself for not having my camera within reach to photograph the view from the plane window. I hope we will be able to see as well on the flight out.

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.