Tools in the Field
NASA volcanologist Patrick Whelley (left) prepares the LiDAR scanner for deployment at Kilbourne Hole. (Photo: Nicola Shannon)
Kneeling in the desert, NASA scientists Kelsey Young and Amy McAdam train their research guns on rocks to determine the elemental composition of a geological site. Their mission: To help astronauts of the future do the same thing to look for clues of life on other worlds.
Walking across a volcanic desert in New Mexico under a 105 degree sun isn’t easy. It’s even harder carrying a 50-pound black plastic box full of expensive technology on your back.
Stephen Scheidt launched his fixed-wing drone, which looked like a miniature airplane, over the lava flows at Aden Crater and the crevices of Kilbourne Hole—a flying camera that rose just a few hundred feet to help piece together clues to what happened below 24,000 years ago.
Geologists often spend weeks or months in remote locations collecting data that they typically don’t analyze, or even glance at, until they’re long out of the field. RIS4E’s excursions to volcanic fields are different. The team builds in days for analysis, discussion and, sometimes changes in plans.