J. Moersch's research while affiliated with The University of Tennessee Medical Center at Knoxville and other places

Publications (108)

Conference Paper
Full-text available
Blocks of crust uplifted by ancient impact basins on Mars preserve some of the oldest crustal material in our solar system. In this study we explore the composition of this crust with remote sensing techniques.
Conference Paper
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Salt-encrusted basins of the high Andes are among the best terrestrial analogs for salt-encrusted basins on Mars. Topographic constructs form in these basins on Earth due to the activity of water. We explore two examples of these constructs in a halite and gypsum salar and evaluate the implications for exploration of Mars.
Article
Salar de Pajonales, a Ca-sulfate salt flat in the Chilean High Andes, showcases the type of polyextreme environment recognized as one of the best terrestrial analogs for early Mars because of its aridity, high solar irradiance, salinity, and oxidation. The surface of the salar represents a natural climate-transition experiment where contemporary la...
Article
We present a new SIngle-scintillator Neutron and Gamma Ray spectrometer (SINGR) instrument for use with both passive and active measurement techniques. Here we discuss the application of SINGR for planetary exploration missions, however, hydrology, nuclear non-proliferation, and resource prospecting are all potential areas where the instrument coul...
Article
The Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons instrument (DAN) onboard the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) uses ³ He proportional counters to detect neutrons escaping the martian surface. This neutron leakage flux can be used to estimate the amount of hydrogen in the shallow martian regolith. During sols 753 through 1292 of the MSL mission, the rover traversed from...
Presentation
Here we present results from a new active nuclear instrument (selected in 2015 NASA PICASSO program) that combines a dual neutron and gamma-ray sensitive scintillator with a pulsed neutron generator (PNG) to rapidly characterize the hydrogen (H) content, depth distribution of H, and bulk geochemistry of planetary surfaces. The SIngle-scintillator N...
Poster
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The hydrogen content and elemental composition of a planetary surface can be determined through the use of nuclear instrumentation (i.e. neutron spectrometers (NS) and gamma ray spectrometers (GRS)). Here we present developments and preliminary data from a new active nuclear instrument (selected in NASA PICASSO program) that uses a pulsed neutron g...
Article
The Mars Science Laboratory Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) experiment measures the martian neutron leakage flux in order to estimate the amount of water equivalent hydrogen present in the shallow regolith. When DAN is operating in passive mode, it is sensitive to neutrons produced through the interactions of galactic cosmic rays (GCR) with the re...
Article
The Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover) Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) experiment detects neutrons for the purpose of searching for hydrogen in the shallow subsurface of Mars. DAN has two modes of operation, active and passive. In passive mode, the instrument detects neutrons produced by Galactic Cosmic Ray interactions in the atmosphere an...
Poster
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As part of the SETI NAI Team’s effort to develop a roadmap to biosignature exploration, which supports NASA’s decadal plan for the search for life and for the upcoming NASA and ESA rover missions that will launch in 2020, we seek to optimize the ability to identify and cache the most valuable samples on Mars. This strategy requires an understanding...
Article
The Dynamic Albedo of Neutron (DAN) instrument on board the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover acquired a series of measurements as part of an observational campaign of the Kimberley area in Gale crater. These observations were planned to assess the variability of bulk hydrogen and neutron-absorbing elements, characterized as chlorine-equivale...
Article
The Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) experiment on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover Curiosity is designed to detect neutrons to determine hydrogen abundance within the subsurface of Mars (Mitrofanov, I.G. et al. [2012]. Space Sci. Rev. 170, 559-582. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11214-012-9924-y; Litvak, M.L. et al. [2008]. Astrobiology 8, 605-...
Article
Searching for water in the soil of Gale Crater is one of the primary tasks for the NASA Mars Science Laboratory rover named Curiosity. The primary task of the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) experiment on board the rover is to investigate and qualitatively characterize the presence of water along the rover’s traverse across Gale Crater. The water...
Article
Data gathered with the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument onboard Curiosity rover were analyzed for variations in subsurface neutron flux and tested for possible correlation with local geological context. A special DAN observation campaign was executed in which 18 adjacent DAN active measurements were acquired every 0.75-1.0 m to search fo...
Conference Paper
The LiTA project is developing and field testing a 1-m drill mounted on an autonomous rover in the Atacama desert.
Conference Paper
PLL is a step toward robotic awareness without constant human oversight. It is applied here to the concept of adaptive exploration of Titan’s seas.
Article
The PLL robotic probe, an analog to future missions to the lakes and seas of Titan, uses onboard autonomous science data understanding to drive its behavior.
Article
DAN data acquired in and around Yellowknife Bay are modeled using full elemental geochemistries from APXS and SAM.
Article
H₂O, CO₂, SO₂, O₂, H₂, H₂S, HCl, chlorinated hydrocarbons, NO and other trace gases were evolved during pyrolysis of two mudstone samples acquired by the Curiosity rover at Yellowknife Bay within Gale crater, Mars. H₂O/OH-bearing phases included 2:1 phyllosilicate(s), bassanite, akaganeite, and amorphous materials. Thermal decomposition of carbonat...
Article
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The Curiosity rover discovered fine-grained sedimentary rocks, which are inferred to represent an ancient lake and preserve evidence of an environment that would have been suited to support a martian biosphere founded on chemolithoautotrophy. This aqueous environment was characterized by neutral pH, low salinity, and variable redox states of both i...
Article
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Sedimentary rocks examined by the Curiosity rover at Yellowknife Bay, Mars, were derived from sources that evolved from an approximately average martian crustal composition to one influenced by alkaline basalts. No evidence of chemical weathering is preserved, indicating arid, possibly cold, paleoclimates and rapid erosion and deposition. The absen...
Article
H2O, CO2, SO2, O2, H2, H2S, HCl, chlorinated hydrocarbons, NO, and other trace gases were evolved during pyrolysis of two mudstone samples acquired by the Curiosity rover at Yellowknife Bay within Gale crater, Mars. H2O/OH-bearing phases included 2:1 phyllosilicate(s), bassanite, akaganeite, and amorphous materials. Thermal decomposition of carbona...
Article
Full-text available
We determined radiogenic and cosmogenic noble gases in a mudstone on the floor of Gale Crater. A K-Ar age of 4.21 ± 0.35 billion years represents a mixture of detrital and authigenic components and confirms the expected antiquity of rocks comprising the crater rim. Cosmic-ray–produced 3He, 21Ne, and 36Ar yield concordant surface exposure ages of 78...
Article
[1] The Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument on board Mars Science Laboratory has been operating successfully since the landing and has been making measurements regularly along Curiosity's traverse at the surface. DAN measures thermal (E < 0.4 eV) and epithermal neutrons (0.4 eV < E < ~1 keV) while operating in two different modes: active an...
Article
In our analysis we have used active neutron spectroscopy measurements performed by the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument onboard the MSL rover Curiosity at multiple stops along rover's traverse. The main objectives of the analysis is to monitor variation of neutron flux, to estimate average content of water, to detect its depth distributi...
Article
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The ChemCam instrument, which provides insight into martian soil chemistry at the submillimeter scale, identified two principal soil types along the Curiosity rover traverse: a fine-grained mafic type and a locally derived, coarse-grained felsic type. The mafic soil component is representative of widespread martian soils and is similar in compositi...
Article
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“Jake_M,” the first rock analyzed by the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer instrument on the Curiosity rover, differs substantially in chemical composition from other known martian igneous rocks: It is alkaline (textgreater15% normative nepheline) and relatively fractionated. Jake_M is compositionally similar to terrestrial mugearites, a rock type...
Article
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Observations by the Mars Science Laboratory Mast Camera (Mastcam) in Gale crater reveal isolated outcrops of cemented pebbles (2 to 40 millimeters in diameter) and sand grains with textures typical of fluvial sedimentary conglomerates. Rounded pebbles in the conglomerates indicate substantial fluvial abrasion. ChemCam emission spectra at one outcro...
Conference Paper
We address the problem of adaptive information-optimal data collection in time series. Here a remote sensor or explorer agent throttles its sampling rate in order to track anomalous events while obeying constraints on time and power. This problem is challenging because the agent has limited visibility - all collected datapoints lie in the past, but...
Article
The observations made by the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) experiment onboard the MSL rover Curiosity have been analyzed to search for variability of the neutron flux along a traverse of the rover. The results of such an analysis have been used to compare surface measurements with measurements performed during the Mars Odyssey orbital mission wi...
Article
The first data from active measurements by DAN instrument is presented for the content of hydrogen at testing spots along the traverse of the Curiosity Rover.
Article
H2O, CO2, SO2, O2, H2, H2S, HCl, chlorinated hydrocarbons, NO and other trace gases were evolved during pyrolysis of two mudstone samples acquired by the Curiosity rover at Yellowknife Bay within Gale crater, Mars. H2O/OH-bearing phases included 2:1 phyllosilicate(s), bassanite, akaganeite, and amorphous materials. Thermal decomposition of carbonat...
Article
H₂O, CO₂, SO₂, O₂, H₂, H₂S, HCl, chlorinated hydrocarbons, NO and other trace gases were evolved during pyrolysis of two mudstone samples acquired by the Curiosity rover at Yellowknife Bay within Gale crater, Mars. H₂O/OH-bearing phases included 2:1 phyllosilicate(s), bassanite, akaganeite, and amorphous materials. Thermal decomposition of carbonat...
Article
The Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) experiment, part of the scientific payload of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover mission, will have the ability to assess both the abundance and the burial depth of subsurface hydrogen as the rover traverses the Martian surface. DAN will employ a method of measuring neutron fluxes called “neutron die-away”...
Conference Paper
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We present a proposed technique for identifying martian caves using THEMIS infrared images.
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The Opportunity rover is currently en route to investigate the ~20-km diameter Endeavour Crater in Meridiani Planum. We present an analysis of Capes York, Tribulation, and Byron's mineralogy and topography using HiRISE band ratios and DEMs.
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This study presents the first global compositional maps of plagioclase, the most abundant mineral in the Martian crust. Linear deconvolutions of spectra from the Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) allowed calculation of average plagioclase compositions for dust-free areas on Mars ±60° of the equator (approximately 40% of the surface for this range...
Article
Endeavour crater, Meridiani Planum, Mars, is the current destination for the Opportunity rover. We are performing detailed mapping of Endeavour crater and report morphologic and spectral differences from locations previously visited by the rover.
Article
Aerial thermal imaging is used to study grain-size distributions and induration on a wide variety of alluvial fans in the desert southwest of the United States. High-resolution aerial thermal images reveal evidence of sedimentary processes that rework and build alluvial fans, as preserved in the grain-size distributions and surface induration those...
Article
Here we present orbit-based evidence that aeolian bedforms in Endeavour crater, Meridiani Planum, Mars, have been active (erosion) in the span of the past decade. Also we suggest these modest dunes are not in equilibrium with their environment.
Article
We evaluate the utility of remote thermal image data for mapping geomorphic features and evidence of sedimentary processes on the surfaces of alluvial fans. Prior studies of alluvial fans have made extensive use of visible images and traditional field-based techniques. As a case study demonstration of this technique, we compare thermal images acqui...
Article
This paper summarizes the Spirit rover operations in the Columbia Hills of Gusev Crater from sols 513 to 1476 and provides an overview of selected findings that focus on synergistic use of the Athena Payload and comparisons to orbital data. Results include discovery of outcrops (Voltaire) on Husband Hill that are interpreted to be altered impact me...
Article
Complete sets of mineral abundances for relatively unaltered volcanic or volcaniclastic rocks in Gusev Crater have been determined by modeling Mössbauer subspectral areas as mineral weight percentages, and combining those percentages with the proportions of iron-free minerals not detected by Mössbauer (normative plagioclase, apatite, and chromite,...
Article
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The science goals of the Life in the Atacama (LITA) robotic field experiment are to understand habitat and seek out life in the Atacama Desert, Chile, as an analog to future missions to Mars. To those ends, we present a new data analysis tool, the LITA Data Scoring System (DSS), which (1) integrates rover and orbital data relevant to environmental...
Article
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The Life in the Atacama project investigated the regional distribution of life and habitats in the Atacama Desert of Chile. We sought to create biogeologic maps through survey traverses across the desert using a rover carrying biologic and geologic instruments. Elements of our science approach were to: Perform ecological transects from the relative...
Article
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The Atacama Desert, one of the most arid landscapes on Earth, serves as an analog for the dry conditions on Mars and as a test bed in the search for life on other planets. During the Life in the Atacama (LITA) 2004 field experiment, satellite imagery and ground-based rover data were used in concert with a `follow-the-water' exploration strategy to...
Article
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The Life in the Atacama-2004 project, which included geological, morphological, and mineralogical mapping through combined satellite, field-based, and microscopic perspectives and long-range roving, led to the localization of potential habitats.
Article
The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity touched down at Meridiani Planum in January 2004 and since then has been conducting observations with the Athena science payload. The rover has traversed more than 5 km, carrying out the first outcrop-scale investigation of sedimentary rocks on Mars. The rocks of Meridiani Planum are sandstones formed by eolia...
Article
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Spirit landed on the floor of Gusev Crater and conducted initial operations on soil-covered, rock-strewn cratered plains underlain by olivine-bearing basalts. Plains surface rocks are covered by wind-blown dust and show evidence for surface enrichment of soluble species as vein and void-filling materials and coatings. The surface enrichment is the...
Article
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The Chilean Atacama Desert is the most arid region on Earth and in several ways analogous to Mars. Evidence suggests that the interior of the Atacama is lifeless, yet where the desert meets the Pacific coastal range dessication-tolerant microorganisms are known to exist. The gradient of biodiversity and habitats in the Atacama's subregions remain u...
Article
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The Life In The Atacama (LITA) project develops and field tests a long-range, solarpowered, automated rover platform (Zo ) and a science payload assembled to search for microbial life in the Atacama desert. Life is barely detectable over most of the driest desert on Earth. Its unique geological, climatic, and biological evolution have created a uni...
Article
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The "Life in the Atacama" (LITA) project included two field trials during the 2004 field season, each of which lasted about a week. The remote science team had no prior knowledge of the local geology, and relied entirely on orbital images and rover-acquired data to make interpretations. The sites for these trials were in different locations, and ar...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Basalts and soils on the plains contain both nutrients and sources of redox energy needed for life as we know it. Liquid water has been scarce recently, however, obliquity-related climate variations perhaps created favorable subsurface conditions.
Conference Paper
The Life in the Atacama project is surveying habitats and mapping the distribution of life in regions of the Atacama Desert. The project seeks to develop robotic technologies and exploration methods that are necessary for the long-distance traverse essential to the investigation.