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NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Report: Researching - 13 August 2006

Status Report From: AMASE 2006
Posted: Wednesday, August 30, 2006

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Sunday

Shortly after the group photo, research parties were flown into the field with the helicopter. I was going to the top of Sverrefjell volcano with Steelie, Hans, Ivar, Libby, Ellen and Kjell Ove (our extremely talented and sprightly photographer). We visited two small ice caves discovered near the top of Sverrfjell on a previous expedition. The caves are vertical lava tubes filled with ancient blue ice from glaciers that have covered the volcano since it formed one million years ago. These caves are also coated in carbonates. It is very unusual to see this much carbonate (a material commonly associated with tropical reefs) in a volcano and its origins are not completely understood.

We took small samples of the pure blue ice within the ice caves and some of the carbonate as well. The ice was a beautiful transparent blue and it was strange to think I was touching water that had potentially frozen hundreds of thousands of years ago. From a GCMS perspective, it will be neat to see if we detect anything living in the ice and carbonates or if they preserve any historic organics.

Down the mountain on the lower slope Paul and Oliver had begun deployment of our field GCMS from Griffin Analytical. By the time I met them, they had successfully calibrated and run a sample in the field!! We had two small generators at our disposal to run the GCMS, pyrolysis unit and laptop. Luckily, we were able to haul all the equipment including associated power strips and transformers up to the lower slope using the helicopter. Carrying everything uphill would have required two people, each with 80 lb. packs, and a third person to carry all the sterile gloves, spatulas, foil and rock hammers for sampling.

Running our instrument in the field was difficult. The generators sputtered out unexpectedly several times; instantly cutting power to our vacuum pumps and stalling our sample analysis. The fuse on the transformer also blew a couple times because it became overloaded either from the power draw of our equipment or surges from the generator. Eventually, the GCMS decided it had enough abuse and just stopped communicating with our computer. At this point we had completed two sample analyses in the field and felt we had put forth a noble effort for our first real field deployment!

Conveniently, it was approaching 3:15pm and the helicopter was going to arrive shortly to take the instrument back to the ship. The helicopter was also taking Paul, Dave Bish and Ashley back to Longyearbyen to fly home. We said goodbye to our departing AMASErs in the field and waved as the helicopter circled our field site for one last scenic view before returning to the ship.

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.

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