Utah On The Rocks: Regolith And Other Geological Research During Expedition One

Dr Jonathan Clarke

Visiting Fellow, Dept. of Geology, Australian National University


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Abstract: Expedition One to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah was the first of a planned series of special expeditions to Mars-analog research sites around the world. Geological research focused on three aspects: basin architecture, sedimentary geology, and regolith. Basin architecture was the province of the expedition leader, Rocky Persaud. Melissa Battler studied the sedimentary geology of one particular unit, the Dakota Sandstone, for her honours project. The author’s main study was the regolith geology of the field area. Regolith-landform mapping techniques developed in Australia were successful applied and highly useful. In addition to describing the regolith and landforms, the techniques proved a useful adjunct to richness and diversity studies of the soil microbiota, helped assess the Mars analogue value of the area, and identified the cause of geotechnical problems of the habitat site. The utility of regolith-landform mapping during Expedition One demonstrates that detailed mapping and characterization of the regolith should be an integral part of studying both terrestrial analogs and of Mars itself during both reconnaissance and detailed exploration phases and the construction of major infrastructure.

PROFILE: Dr Jonathan Clarke is Director of Field Research with Mars Society Australia. A Canberra-based geologist with experience in the mineral and petroleum industry, academia, and in government surveys, Jonathan now works for Geoscience Australia. He has worked in every state of Australia, mostly in the arid interior. In addition he has practiced geology in New Zealand, the Philippines, and the Atacama desert of northern Chile, one of the most Mars-like areas on earth. Dr Clarke led the Jarntimarra-1 expedition, and took part in Expedition One in Utah, USA, in 2003. Dr Clarke was, until recently, Manager of the MARS-OZ project and is leader of Expedition Two, helping to coordinate and plan the activity from its inception.