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WATSON (Wireless Analysis Tool for Subsurface Observation of Northern-ice-sheets) project

General

Project start
01.01.2017
Project end
31.12.2020
Type of project
ARMAP/NSF
Project theme
Space physics
Project topic
Space physics

Fieldwork / Study

Fieldwork country
Greenland (DK)
Fieldwork location

Geolocation is 0, 0

Fieldwork start
27.03.2017
Fieldwork end
10.04.2017

SAR information

Fieldwork / Study

Fieldwork country
Greenland (DK)
Fieldwork location

Geolocation is 0, 0

Fieldwork start
27.03.2017
Fieldwork end
10.04.2017

SAR information

Fieldwork / Study

Fieldwork country
Greenland (DK)
Fieldwork location

Geolocation is 0, 0

Fieldwork start
01.01.2018
Fieldwork end
31.12.2018

SAR information

Fieldwork / Study

Fieldwork country
Greenland (DK)
Fieldwork location

Geolocation is 0, 0

Fieldwork start
23.06.2019
Fieldwork end
13.07.2019

SAR information

Fieldwork / Study

Fieldwork country
Greenland (DK)
Fieldwork location

Geolocation is 0, 0

Fieldwork start
26.06.2019
Fieldwork end
11.07.2019

SAR information

Project details

02.12.2019
Science / project summary

The WATSON project (Wireline Analysis Tool for Subsurface Observation of Northern-ice-sheets) integrates recent technological drilling advancements and instrumentation to enable spatially resolved in-situ detection and characterization of organics, microbes, and potential biosignatures in the subsurface ice record. In-situ characterization of subsurface ice will lead to a better understanding of life in ice and constrain our understanding of how it can survive and be preserved in the icy regions of planetary bodies (e.g. Mars poles, Europa, Enceladus). Detection of organic, microbes, and potential biosignatures on solar system bodies and their spatial distribution are fundamental capabilities required to meet NASA’s strategic goals. This capability was highlighted by the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team (SDT) report and subsequent Mars 2020 payload selection that incorporated instruments such as SHERLOC, PIXL, and SuperCam to use non-contact spectroscopic methods to assess the distribution of organics, minerals, key elements, and potential biosignatures. WATSON advances this capability to analyze layered subsurface ice deposits and is directly aligned with the recommendations of the 2013 Planetary Decadal Survey that stated, “the next step for in situ high-latitude ice studies is to explore the exposed [martian] polar layered deposits”. WATSON’s detection method is a (TRL 5) deep-UV native fluorescence instrument, a repackaged version of the recent SHERLOC instrument selected for Mars 2020 originally developed under NASA/ASTID and DoD programs. WATSON fits within the instrument bay of a wireline autonomous ice drilling system (TRL 5), developed initially by ASTID and recently refined and demonstrated under private funding. The WATSON project: •Enables a means to understand the patterns of organics, microbes, and potential biosignatures transferred through aeolian processes and preserved as layered deposits in ice sheets •Demonstrates that an analysis of a single geographical site provides this information over geological time scales and increases the probability of finding habitable environments and potential preserved biosignatures •Integrates high TRL hardware leveraging previous NASA/ASTID and NSF development funds •Reduces risk and demonstrates feasibility of instrument deployment to the layered deposits of the Mars polar ice caps The WATSON instrument will perform in-situ analysis of layered subsurface ice deposits in Greenland (GISP2). These have been selected as planetary analog sites because they are well-characterized, contain clear terrestrial paleoenvironmental records, are at high altitudes with high UV flux that could simulate higher radiation planetary surfaces, and have existing data on microbial density and diversity from current cores. By using these sites we will be able to map the in-situ derived distribution of microbial and organics, with climatological/environmental processes (volcanic, desertification, ocean chemistry, anthropogenic influences).

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