Our car is dusty, and the living room has been reduced to a clutter of equipment and samples. We have reached the end of the trip, with nearly 10 gigabytes of data, over 1200 photos, and a few kg of Iceland stowed away in our bags. The last two days have seen us getting remaining samples from our target sites, and acquiring the last batches of PanCam data. Yesterday the wind had died down enough for us to take AUPE (Aberystwyth University PanCam Emulator) up to the top of Namafjall ridge itself. There were two sites here that particularly interested us: a hydrothermally-altered outcrop of pillow basalts (formed by lava erupting into an overlying ice sheet), and a series of hydrothermal gypsum veins. The gypsum deposits in particular are very similar to those that have been identified on Mars by the NASA Opportunity rover, and more recently by the rover MSL Curiosity, and so were a high-priority target for us here in Iceland.
Later in the day during our final hours of sampling, Namafjall revealed another great Mars analogue: bright-toned sulfur rich deposits just under the oxidised surface of the volcanic terrain that dominates here:
These provide a great comparison to the light-toned deposits unearthed by the NASA Spirit rover several years ago, and will certainly be a target for future PanCam field deployments.
However, our time here is near to an end. Like all fieldwork, this trip has not been without its set-backs, but hopefully the data gathered by both AUPE (loaned from Aberystwyth University) and the reflectance spectrometer (loaned from the NERC Field Spectroscopy Facility) will help us understand both the capabilities, and limitations, of multispectral datasets for the future exploration of Mars.
Final credits go to: Jennifer Harris who took charge of the entire trip; Peter Grindrod – our chief driver, car battery carrier, and Mars specialist; and last (but certainly not least) Matt Gunn, who fixed everything we broke and built us things we didn’t even know we needed.
Final Note: Throughout the duration of this fieldwork, in addition to sampling, imaging, and measuring, we have also been collecting video footage. This will be made into a short science video detailing the key aspects of this research, and how we carried it out whilst here in Iceland. Watch this space…