Are we prepared for a new era of field geology on the moon and beyond?
Imagining a new era of planetary field geology
Space agencies must invest more resources on field geology training of astronauts to take full advantage of scientific opportunities on the Moon and other planetary bodies, Kip Hodges and Harrison Schmitt urge, in an Editorial. The Moon represents a pristine archive of the early history of the Solar System, making it an ideal research target for scientists seeking a window into planetary formation. Key to the success of these efforts will be careful field geology prior to sample collection. Here, Hodges and Schmitt discuss whether space agencies are fully prepared to study these surfaces on future voyages to the Moon and Mars. They argue that conducting effective geological research on other planets will require extensive training, meaning that astronaut programs should place a stronger emphasis on field geology training of all astronauts and should include geologists with advanced degrees in mission crews. Furthermore, space agencies should develop aggressive research programs to develop new science operations strategies that integrate new technologies (e.g., augmented reality) to enable better field research. The authors recommend that both educational and research activities in this vein should involve scientists and engineers from academia as well as from the space agencies. Taking such steps will optimize the scientific productivity of missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.