Terrestrial Analogue Sites

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Terrestrial Analogue Sites (also called "Space Analogues") are places on Earth with assumed past or present geological, environmental or biological conditions of a celestial body such as the Moon or Mars. Analogue sites are used in the frame of space exploration to either study geological or biological processes observed on other planets, or to prepare astronauts for surface Extra-vehicular activity.

Definition[edit]

Rio Tinto analogue site that gained recent scientific interest due to the presence of extremophile aerobic bacteria that dwell in the water[1]
Antarctic analogue Concordia Station, where temperatures can drop down to -80° Celsius
Underwater lunar surface EVA training by COMEX in Marseilles

Analogue sites are places on Earth with assumed, past or present, geological, environmental or biological conditions of a celestial body. Analogue site studies are necessary because they help to understand geological processes (on Earth) which can be extrapolated to other solar system bodies in order to interpret and validate the data received from orbiters or planetary rovers. Analogue sites are also important for optimizing scientific and technological needs and exploration strategies in robotic or manned missions to the Moon or Mars.[2] The definition of space analogues is therefore rather vast, reaching from places on Earth that exhibit geologic or atmospheric characteristics which are close to those observed on other celestial bodies, to sites that are used for space mission simulations to test sampling or drilling equipment, space suits, or the performance of astronauts in reduced gravity.

Some sites are therefore suited to test instruments for exobiological research or to train sampling procedures for field explorations. Other sites offer an extreme environment that can be used by astronauts to prepare for the difficulties in future space missions.

Fidelity[edit]

An important notion in the evaluation of analogue sites is the that of "fidelity", which describes the resemblance of the analogue to its extraterrestrial correspondent. Fidelity is used in comparative planetary science to express the analogy of a terrestrial site to a target extraterrestrial surface. This classification is possible based on various criteria such as geomorphology, geochemistry, exobiology or exploration conditions.

Geomorphology[edit]

Geomorphology is the scientific study of landforms and the processes that shape them. In terms of analogue sites, scientists search for locations on Earth that exhibit similar landforms such as can be found on exploration targets like the Moon, Mars or even asteroids and comets. The idea is to confront astronauts, robots or scientific equipment with sites that resemble in their geologic appearance those extraterrestrial surfaces. Examples are volcanic sites which resemble lunar terrain (regolith), polar locations and glaciers that can be compared to the poles of Mars or of Jupiter moon Europa, or terrestrial lava tubes which can also be found on the Moon or Mars.

Geochemistry[edit]

Geochemistry is the science that uses the principles of chemistry to explain the mechanisms behind major geological systems. The aspect of geochemistry is of importance for analogue sites when locations offer the possibility to test analysis instruments for future space missions (manned or robotic). Geochemical fidelity is also of importance for the development and test of equipment used for in-situ resource utilization. Examples for such analogue sites are terrestrial volcanoes that offer rocks similar to those found on the Moon or hematite concretions which can be found in Earth deserts and also on Mars (so-called "Blueberries").

Exobiology[edit]

Exobiology or astrobiology is the study of the origin and evolution of extraterrestrial life. In terrestrial analogues efforts are put on the identification of so-called extremophile organisms, which are life forms that live and survive in extreme conditions such as can be found on other planets or moons. The objective of this research is to understand how such organisms survive and how they can be identified (or their remnants).

Examples of exobiology analogue sites are the Rio Tinto in Spain, which hosts bacteria that can survive high temperatures and harsh chemical conditions, or black smokers in the deep sea that host colonies of life forms in high-pressure and high-temperature conditions. Scientists can test at such analogue sites sampling equipment designed to search and identify lifeforms.

Exploration conditions[edit]

Another criterion to search for analogue sites are locations where the exploration conditions of future astronauts can be simulated. Future explorers of the Moon or Mars will have to handle various conditions, such as reduced gravity, radiation, work in pressurized space suits and extreme temperatures. Preparing astronauts for these conditions calls for training on sites that exhibit some of those conditions. The operations that can be simulated reach from living in isolation, to extra-vehicular activity (EVA) in reduced gravity to the construction of habitats. Examples for analogue sites that offer such exploration conditions are research stations at the poles or underwater EVA training as it is done at NEEMO by NASA, or at the Marseilles subsea analogue by COMEX.[3] Underwater analogue sites allow for the training of astronauts in neutral buoyancy conditions (such as is done in test pools at NASA, ESA or Star City in Russia) while operating on a natural terrain. Potential targets for such training are missions to the Moon and Mars, to test sampling, drilling and field explorations in 1/6th or 1/3rd of Earth's gravity, or asteroids, and to test anchoring systems in microgravity.

History of the space analogues[edit]

The notion of space analogues is not new. NASA has used such sites for a long time to train its astronauts for space missions. The following data are taken from the official website of NASA.[4]

The first analog mission was undertaken in 1997 in Arizona. Since then, NASA leads annual missions there to evaluate and test EVAs and outpost systems and operations. This site was chosen to test the materials in a desolate environment with rugged terrain, dust storms, extreme temperatures...

In the same year, the Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) was started on Devon Island in the Arctic. Since then, 14 missions have been conducted there to test technology and operations in a remote, extreme environment and conduct science research on the Mars-like terrain.

In 2001, NASA conducted the mission named NEEMO near Florida, 62 feet (19 m) underwater, that was supposed to be a simulation for six aquanauts living in a confined space. It was also the way to test the exploration equipment in an extreme and isolated environment. Since 2001, 14 missions have been undertaken there in a multi-organizational environment.

Since 2004, two-week missions are conducted every summer in Pavilion Lake in Canada. This analogue site allows astronauts to train in searching for evidence of life in an extreme environment with reduced-gravity conditions. This is an international and multi-organizational project conducted underwater.

The last analogue site used by NASA is at Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. Two missions have already been undertaken, and another one was expected in 2012. This project was led to test technologies for sustaining human exploration on desolate planetary surfaces like the Moon or Mars.

Objectives[edit]

In the history part, we have seen that it is considered of the utmost important to use those analogue sites in validating the spatial technologies and the scientific instruments. Of course, it is not the only aim of the analogue sites.

Geology field training[edit]

The second objective of the space analogues is to train the personnel in using the technologies, the instruments and in knowing how to behave with a spacesuit. That's why two types of analogue sites exist: the underwater sites and the surface sites.
    • the underwater sites will be used to simulate a reduced-gravity environment by compensating the weight by the Archimedes' principle. It is then possible to simulate a zero gravity or a reduced-gravity as it is on the Moon.
    • the surface sites will be used to train the astronauts to walk and move with the spacesuit. It will be a way to test the Mars Exploration Rover for example. Those sites are also used to teach the astronauts, that are mainly pilots, geology.

Exobiology[edit]

The second big issue of those space analogues is to be able to find some similarities between the exobiology. There are some places on Earth where the conditions allow only certain organism to live. They are called extremophile organism.

Currently used space analogues[edit]

Following table lists currently used space analogues on Earth.

List of currently used analogue sites
Location name Coordinates (decimal) Description Geomorphological Fidelity Geochemistrial Fidelity Exobiological Fidelity Exploration Conditions Fidelity
Mars Desert Research Station, US




Mars Desert Research Station is located in USA
Mars Desert Research Station
Mars Desert Research Station
Mars Desert Research Station (USA)
38.406458,
-110.791903
Desert located in Utah close to the road 24 at 11.6 km from Hanksville. Disposes of a space habitat simulator. The research station, a Mars Society's station, consists of three buildings, the Habitat, the Greenhab, the Musk Mars Desert Observatory and a remotely located Engineering Support Equipment Area. Moon Moon
Sand

Mars Mars
Rocky ground with dust devils

Mars Mars
Marine shales,coals, sulfates, carbonates and quartz rocks
Mars Mars
Extremophile organisms (drought and high temperatures)

EVA Surface EVA
EVA in terrestrial gravity.

Confinement Confinement Confinement in isolated space habitat.

Habitat Habitat and LSS Installed space habitat simulation.
Devon Island, Canada


Haughton impact Crater is located in Canada
Haughton impact Crater
Haughton impact Crater
Haughton impact Crater (Canada)
75.383333,
-89.666667
Crater located on the Devon island, the Haughton Crater resembles the Mars surface in more ways than any other place on Earth. It is an international and multidisciplinary site where temperatures are cold. Need of a boat to reach the island and the crater. Mars-like landscape of dry, unvegetated, rocky terrain and extreme for testing planetary exploration strategies, such as safety environmental conditions. HMP (Haughton Mars Project) undertaken by NASA since 1997. Moon Moon
Analogy with Shackleton Crater, a 19-km-wide impact crater at the Moon’s South Pole

Mars Mars
Loose rock, craters, ground ice, rock glaciers, ancient hot springs and lakes, gullies, sapping valleys, valley networks, and canyons.
Mars Mars
Quartz rocks, shales and allochthonous breccia
Mars Mars
Permafrost (evidence of water in the past)

jupiter Outer Moons
Permafrost
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in terrestrial gravity.

Habitat Habitat and LSS Simulation in extreme conditions, lack of installations and isolation.
Svalbard, Norway




Svalbard is located in Arctic
Svalbard
Svalbard
Svalbard (Arctic)
78.00,
16.00
Located in Arctic, the environmental and topological geography are very close to Mars. This site is located in a volcanic region with very low temperatures. The Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition (AMASE) was untertaken by NASA since 2003. Moon Moon
Red sandstone

Mars Mars
Rocky ground, rough field, rock glaciers, volcanic center, hot springs,perennial rivers, gaps and folds
Moon Moon
Volcanic rocks (basalt)

Mars Mars
Shale
Mars Mars
Extremophile organisms (extreme temperatures)
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in terrestrial gravity.

Confinement Confinement Confinement during an exercise, no communication between the two teams.

Habitat Habitat and LSS Simulation in extreme conditions, lack of installations and isolation.
Rio Tinto, Spain

Rio Tinto is located in Spain
Rio Tinto
Rio Tinto
Rio Tinto (Spain)
37.40396,
-6.33576
Located in Spain, this desert crossed by the river Rio Tinto has an environmental and topographical geography close to that of Mars. There is no vegetation, and temperatures are between 10 °C and 20 °C, which allows a certain stability in temperature. This site is very easy to reach, thanks to its proximity with a big road and a town. Moon Moon
Red sandstone

Mars Mars
Meridiani Planum and rocky ground
Mars Mars
Iron (pyrite) and sulfide minerals
Mars Mars
extremophile aerobic bacteria (extreme environment), chemolithotrophic microorganisms
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in terrestrial gravity.
McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica




McMurdo Dry Valleys is located in Antarctica
McMurdo Dry Valleys
McMurdo Dry Valleys
McMurdo Dry Valleys (Antarctica)
-77.466667,
162.516667
Located in Antarctica, those valleys are snow-free valleys. They are located close to the McMurdo base, which is an advantage for the facilities. The environment is extreme because of the very low temperatures (from -50 to 8°C). This site has been used by the NASA from January 2008 to February 2009 to test an inflatable habitat in an extreme environment. Moon Moon
Dry and cold

Mars Mars
Dry, cold, rocky ground and valleys
Moon Moon
granite

Mars Mars
Iron
Moon Moon
Endolithic photosynthetic bacteria (extreme temperatures)

Mars Mars
Anaerobic organism (metabolism based on iron and sulfur)
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in terrestrial gravity.

Confinement Confinement Confinement for the team (no communication, isolation).

Habitat Habitat and LSS Simulation in extreme conditions.
Atacama desert, Chile

Atacama Desert is located in South America
Atacama Desert
Atacama Desert
Atacama Desert (South America)
-24.5,
-69.25
Located in Chile, this desert is a part of the National Park of Llullaillaco and is the driest desert in the world. A large range of temperatures is covered (from -25 to 45°C). This site is very far from any town because the closest town Calama is located at 200 km from the desert. Moon Moon
sand

Mars Mars
Otherworldly appearance of the soil
Mars Mars
Perchlorates
Mars Mars
Extremophile organisms (extreme temperatures)
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in terrestrial gravity.

Confinement Confinement Confinement during the mission (far from the civilisation)

Habitat Habitat and LSS Simulation in extreme conditions.
Meteor Crater, US

Meteor Crater is located in USA
Meteor Crater
Meteor Crater
Meteor Crater (USA)
35.027222,
-111.0225
This crater is a private site that belongs to the Barringer's Family. It is a well-known crater but it access to the site requires to pay a tax to the family. Its location in Arizona near the Highway 40 implies that it is very easy to reach with a truck. It is located at 69 km from Flagstaff. During the 1960s, NASA astronauts trained in the crater to prepare for the Apollo missions to the Moon. Moon Moon
Sandstone

Mars Mars
Rocky ground
Mars Mars
Dolomite, coesite and stishovite
Mars Mars
Extremophile organisms (extreme temperatures)
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in terrestrial gravity.

Habitat Habitat and LSS Simulation in extreme conditions.
Kīlauea Volcano, US

Kilauea Volcano is located in America
Kilauea Volcano
Kilauea Volcano
Kilauea Volcano (America)
19.425,
-155.291944
The Kilauea Volcano is located on the Big island of Hawaii. This island is composed of different mountains due to the volcanic activity in this region. The climate is tropical and temperatures are cool and stable (from 10 to 20°C). Because of the tropical climate, it rains between November and April. The NASA has already tested some technologies on the neighbouring site of Mauna Kea. Moon Moon
Volcanic dust

Mars Mars
Volcanic center and folds
Moon Moon
Volcanic rocks (basalt)

Mars Mars
Silica
Mars Mars
Extremophile organisms (extreme environment)
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in terrestrial gravity.

Habitat Habitat and LSS Simulation in extreme conditions, production of oxygen from the soil.
Sudbury Crater, Canada

Sudbury Crater is located in Canada
Sudbury Crater
Sudbury Crater
Sudbury Crater (Canada)
46.6,
-81.183333
Located in Ontarion (Canada), this crater has a particularity: in is center there is a town called Greater Sudbury. Temperatures in this region are between -5 and 15°C. This site is very easy to reach and the proximity with the town implies that it is easy to deploy teams there. Mars Mars
Rocky ground
Moon Moon
Pseudotachylite

Mars Mars
Nickel and metals
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in terrestrial gravity.

Habitat Habitat and LSS Simulation in cold conditions.
Teide National Park, Spain

Teide Volcanic Park is located in Africa
Teide Volcanic Park
Teide Volcanic Park
Teide Volcanic Park (Africa)
28.263,
-16.616
Located on the island called Tenerife that belongs to Spain. The site itself belongs to the national park which is composed of two volcanoes. The Teide National Park is a well-known park and well-preserved and the temperatures are cool (between 10 and 30°C). Mars Mars
Rocky ground, gaps and folds
Moon Moon
Volcanic rocks (basalt and phonolite)

Mars Mars
Same rocks on Mars and on the site
Mars Mars
Test of ultraviolet light to detect life on Mars
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in terrestrial gravity.
LMAS (Lunar Mars Analogue Site) Sainte-Rose, Réunion, France

Sainte-Rose is located in Africa
Sainte-Rose
Sainte-Rose
Sainte-Rose (Africa)
-21.243622,
55.713751
Located in the Reunion (French island close to Madagascar), the site of Sainte-Rose includes the volcano "Piton de la Fournaise". It is close to the town, east of the island. The volcano is still active. Moon Moon
Plain of sands (Moon-like hills)

Mars Mars
Volcanic center, gaps and folds
Moon Moon
Volcanic rocks (basalt)

Mars Mars
Iridium
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in terrestrial gravity.

Habitat Habitat and LSS Simulation in volcanic conditions.
Concordia Station, Antarctica




Concordia station is located in Antarctica
Concordia station
Concordia station
Concordia station (Antarctica)
-75.1,
123.558
Located in Antarctica, the Concordia Station is a Franco-Italian research center. Its location is very far from any other station (threre is about 550 km until the closest station, which is Russia's Vostok Station). On the site, temperatures are freezing cold (from −82 °C to −48 °C). This station is operational since 2005 and is used to study medicine, glacology and astronomy. Moon Moon
Ice, meteorit's dust
Mars Mars
Extremophile organisms (extreme temperatures)
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in terrestrial gravity and extreme environment.

Confinement Confinement Concordia station is particularly useful for the study of chronic hypobaric hypoxia, stress secondary to confinement and isolation.

Habitat Habitat and LSS Simulation in extreme conditions and analogue used to train for long duration deep space missions.
Pavilion Lake, Canada

Pavilion Lake is located in Canada
Pavilion Lake
Pavilion Lake
Pavilion Lake (Canada)
50.86502,
-121.737442
Located in Canada, this site is an underwater space analogue used by different nations (Canada and USA). The project undertaken there is entitled the Pavilion Lake Research Project. This is an international and multidisciplinary project that exists since 2004 every summer. The main mission of this project is to learn from and practice doing science field activities, including searching for evidence of life, in an extreme environment with reduced gravity conditions.[4] The advantage of the lake is that there is no swell and a calm water what makes simulation safer and can be used util 65 meters deep. Moon Moon
Sand

Mars Mars
Rocky ground
Mars Mars
Carbonate
Mars Mars
Microbialities
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in reduced, zero or negative gravity.

Habitat Habitat and LSS Simulation in underwater conditions and stress (problem of oxygen).
Gros Morne National Park, Canada

Gros Morne National Park is located in Canada
Gros Morne National Park
Gros Morne National Park
Gros Morne National Park (Canada)
49.621667,
-57.752778
Located on an island in Canada, this site belongs to the Gros Morne National Park, which is a well-known park. The park is quite isolated and far from any town. Temperatures are between -13.3 and 19.6°C. Mars Mars
Rocky ground, rough field and glacial valleys
Moon Moon
Oceanic crust (basalt and gabbro)

Mars Mars
Quartzite
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in terrestrial gravity.
Laguna des Tirez, Spain




Laguna des Tirez is located in Spain
Laguna des Tirez
Laguna des Tirez
Laguna des Tirez (Spain)
39.538238,
-3.357825
Located in Spain, this site is a lagoon with a depth of 20 meters and is at a distance of 110 km from Madrid. Temperatures there are cool (-0,4 to 25,8°C) and the site is near athe town of Villacañas and is easy to reach thanks to the roads around. Mars Mars
Rocky ground and hot springs
Mars Mars
Iron, sulfates and magnesium
Mars Mars
Acetoclastic Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria and Hydrogenotrophic Methanogenic Archaea
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in reduced, zero or negative gravity.

Habitat Habitat and LSS Simulation in underwater conditions.
NEEMO, US



NEEMO is located in USA
NEEMO
NEEMO
NEEMO (USA)
24.95,
-80.453611
Located in the USA, at 5,6 km off Key Largo in Florida, this site is an underwater space analogue and is 19 meters deep. NEEMO, which means NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, is a project undertaken by the NASA to allow six aquanauts to live and worke in a cramped, submerged laboratory to simulate crewed exploration in a hostile environment, with support from surface infrastructure. This mission exists since 2001. Moon Moon
Sand
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in reduced, zero or negative gravity.

Confinement Confinement Confinement up to three weeks in the laboratory.

Habitat Habitat and LSS Simulation in underwater conditions and isolation.
Marseille Bay, France

Terrestrial Analogue Sites is located in France
Terrestrial Analogue Sites
Terrestrial Analogue Sites (France)
43.263956,
5.330772
Underwater analogue sites for the simualtion of surface EVA in reduced gravity. Moon Moon
Sand

Mars Mars
Rocky ground, vertical cliffs and caves
EVA Surface EVA
EVA in reduced, zero or negative gravity.

Habitat Habitat and LSS Simulation in underwater conditions.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Similar extremophile archaea are Archaeal Richmond Mine Acidophilic Nanoorganisms.
  2. ^ Léveillé Richard, Validation d'instrumentation spatiale dans les sites analogues, Canadian Space Agency
  3. ^ Weiss et al., "Simulation and preparation of surface EVA in reduced gravity at the Marseilles Bay subsea analogue sites", Planetary and Space Sciences, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pss.2012.06.022
  4. ^ a b NASA's analog missions, http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/563511main_NASA-Analog-Missions-06-2011_508.pdf