Project PoSSUM Completes Evaluation of Tools for Planetary Geology

31 May Project PoSSUM Completes Evaluation of Tools for Planetary Geology

BOULDER, Colo. – Project PoSSUM announced today that a team of twelve PoSSUM citizen-scientists had completed an evaluation of prototype tools for lunar and Martian geology to later be used to evaluate human performance characteristics of an extra-vehicular activity (EVA) space suit developed by Final Frontier Design of Brooklyn, NY. The course culminated in a one-week capstone field experience in the San Francisco Volcanic Field (SFVF), just north of Flagstaff, AZ, a location that has been used extensively in the past for a number of NASA analog mission simulations and NASA-funded geologic research related to planetary field exploration. 

Led by Dr. Jose Hurtado, a PoSSUM instructor who frequently instructs NASA’s astronaut candidates, the PoSSUM students were introduced to basic field science practice in the context of geologic observations and sample collection. The PoSSUM course included an introduction to field science in the context of geology; an overview of the processes that shape the surface environments of Mars and Earth’s moon; a survey of historical planetary surface geologic exploration by robots and humans; and a survey of historical EVA systems and tools used for human surface science.

PoSSUM Scientist-Astroanut Canddiate Dr. Rui Moura records the composition of a rock using a spectrometer.

Additionally, the PoSSUM students concentrated on design considerations for EVA systems and tools for conducting planetary field geology. EVA tools were designed by each student and then a test article of each tool was fabricated by PoSSUM’s technician team, led by Chris Lundeen. The students were then able to consider the constraints placed by human factors, the EVA environment, and science tasks upon the design and implementation of EVA suits, tools, and procedures for effective and efficient field science operations on planetary surfaces.

“The course was expertly put together and taught by top field geologists.” said PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Candidate Dr. Aaron Persad, “Particularly interesting was learning about the lunar tools developed for the Apollo missions, and thinking about designing future tools for use on the Moon and Mars.”

The evaluation of tools in the scientifically relevant analog setting of the SFVF, as well as tools derived from an additional PoSSUM course on Operational Space Medicine, are currently being integrated into the first phase of EVA space suit evaluation using PoSSUM’s gravity offset laboratory, planned for October 2019.

PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Candidate Kyle Foster demonstrates techniques of tomographic imagery at the San Francisco Volcanic Fields near Flagstaff, Ariz.

“The class was a pleasure to co-teach with Dr. Jose Hurtado.” said PoSSUM instructor Dr. Ulyana Horodyskyj, “Working in the same locations where NASA astronauts did their training for the Apollo Moon missions brought a sense of nostalgia as well as excitement for what’s to come as we embark on a new frontier in space exploration.”

PoSSUM’s citizen-scientists have been trained from over 40 different countries. The planetary field geology course included Dr. Aaron Persad of Somerville, Mass.; Yvette Gonzalez of Miami, Fla.; Dr. Shawna Pandya of Edmonton, Alba.; Dr. Rui Moura of Porto, Portugal; Heidi Hammerstein of Pembroke, Ga.; Kyle Foster of Centreville, Va.; Shayla Redmond of Kathleen, Ga.; Yajaira Sierra-Sastre of Rockville, Md.; Bethany Downer of St. John’s, N.F.; Joey Corso of Palatime, Ill.; Ana Pires of Porto, Portugal; and Brien Posey of Rock Hill, S.C.

PoSSUM, an acronym for Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and education organization that conducts upper-atmospheric and space technology research and communicates the science through various educational outreach programs available to students and professionals. New scientist-astronaut candidates are trained in classes scheduled two times per year at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL. Interested individuals should apply online at

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