Fieldwork, Iceland

Day 6 – Raining, breaking, fixing

The past few days have seen a mixture of successful instrument testing and frustrating hold-ups. Yesterday was a good day, with 3 rock outcrops imaged with the full suite of AUPE’s multispectral filters. This pretty much wrapped up AUPE’s work down on the hydrothermally-altered lava flows, capturing a wide variety of mineralogical terrains. We also got pretty sunburned in the process.

AUPE imaging the altered lava flows at the base of Namafjall ridge
AUPE imaging the altered lava flows at the base of Namafjall ridge

However, yesterday wasn’t without its pitfalls, and the hard work on AUPE took its toll. A look inside AUPE’s brain revealed a few dodgy connections, making her more susceptible to the wear-and-tear of field life and the chilly Icelandic winds. Having imaged all our targets, we spent the afternoon hanging around the carpark near the Namafjall geothermal field showing off our ExoMars PanCam prototype, drawing the attention of wandering tourists.

Aupes brain
Field-fixes inside AUPE’s brain

In the meantime, to further our fieldwork woes, the laptop operating the reflectance spectrometer also decided to throw a technical strop. Fortunately Jen and Pete were able to mission through the final field-measurements needed for the day, but with the future of the spectrometer looking uncertain, and many members of the public now well acquainted with the ESA ExoMars mission, it was time to call it a day.

Today, a cold northerly wind greets us at the top of Namafjall ridge as we attempted to image the various targets up here again. Despite our best efforts (and Pete’s syrupy strong coffee) we were forced to abandon our initial deployment of AUPE. Too windy and too shaky. However, all was not lost – further down the ridge are several volcano-sedimentary deposits created by the same volcano-ice interaction that produced Namafjall ridge many thousands of years ago. These deposits bear a striking resemblance to the hydrovolcanic deposits at Home Plate on Mars, and so were an ideal non-windy target for AUPE.

RGB AUPE image of a volcaniclastic deposits at Namafjall
RGB AUPE image of a volcaniclastic deposits at Namafjall

With the spectrometer laptop broken, all that was left to do for the day was to hope that the ever-capable Matt with his giant bag of tools was able to fix our broken equipment. With all our instruments laid-bare on the kitchen table, all the rest of us could do was sit, watch, and stuff our faces with chocolate.