Each rock tells a story about past volcanic eruptions, meteorite impacts, and giant earthquakes. What we learn on Earth can also be applied to other planets. This is related to what is called terrestrial analogy.
“I personally work on the Mars rovers Curiosity and Perseverance,” said physicist Ryan Anderson, who works at the US Geological Survey’s Center for Astronomy and Geosciences. “I’m related to the laser devices on their heads. They shoot the rocks with lasers and tell us what they’re made of.”
Similar places are places on Earth where geological, biological, or environmental conditions are similar to those found on other planets. Anderson said there are many similar substances on the ground in northern Arizona, including Sunset Crater.
“It’s helpful to have these devices in place because we can’t send people anywhere we want to study in the solar system,” Anderson said. “You know, we’ve been to the moon, but only in certain places. It’s really hard to get there and the moon is the closest thing.”
“You know, to understand the length of a stretch of sea, how long it takes to get there, to test the different tools you would use to collect the samples,” says Gullikson. “Also, how long will it take to collect those samples.”
The USGS Center for Astronomical Geosciences launched a program this year that will pay special attention to studying the similarities and differences between similar points and locations on other planets. Analogs expert and USGS geologist Amber Gullikson says they were first used as training bases for the Apollo missions in the 1960s. Now, they are being used again for Future astronauts can identify best practices and make space missions as efficient as possible.
“Our goal is really to maximize the scientific benefits of NASA missions,” Anderson said. “And now everything’s done because NASA is planning to go back to the Moon and we’re there with them, helping them train and train and get ready to go back.”
- Astrogeology program prepares future astronauts for space missions
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