Field geology on the Moon: Some lessons learned from the exploration of the Haughton impact structure, Devon Island, Canadian High Arctic

Gordon R. Osinski, Pascal Lee, Charles S. Cockell, Kelly Snook, Darlene S. S. Lim, Stephen Braham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the prospect of humans returning to Moon by the end of the next decade, considerable attention is being paid to technologies required to transport astronauts to the lunar surface and then to be able to carry out surface science. Recent and ongoing initiatives have focused on scientific questions to be asked. In contrast, few studies have addressed how these scientific priorities will be achieved. In this contribution, we provide some of the lessons learned from the exploration of the Haughton impact structure, an ideal lunar analogue site in the Canadian Arctic. Essentially, by studying how geologists carry out field science, we can provide guidelines for lunar surface operations. Our goal in this contribution is to inform the engineers and managers involved in mission planning, rather than the field geology community. Our results show that the exploration of the Haughton impact structure can be broken down into 3 distinct phases: (1) reconnaissance; (2) systematic regional-scale mapping and sampling; and (3) detailed local-scale mapping and sampling. This break down is similar to the classic scientific method practiced by field geologists of regional exploratory mapping followed by directed mapping at a local scale, except that we distinguish between two different phases of exploratory mapping. Our data show that the number of stops versus the number of samples collected versus the amount of data collected varied depending on the mission phase, as does the total distance covered per EVA. Thus, operational scenarios could take these differences into account, depending on the goals and duration of the mission. Important lessons learned include the need for flexibility in mission planning in order to account for serendipitous discoveries, the highlighting of key "science supersites" that may require return visits, the need for a rugged but simple human-operated rover, laboratory space in the habitat, and adequate room for returned samples, both in the habitat and in the return vehicle. The proposed set of recommendations ideally should be tried and tested in future analogue missions at terrestrial impact sites prior to planetary missions. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)646-657
Number of pages12
JournalPlanetary and space science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


  • Moon
  • Human exploration
  • Apollo
  • Analogues
  • MARS

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