—Video credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/HI-SEAS
On the rust-colored north flank of one of Earth’s largest volcanoes, a backpack-sized instrument monitors the atmosphere and, at the same time, helps set the stage for possible human exploration of other worlds.
Designed and built at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, the instrument tracks levels of methane and carbon dioxide, two gases crucial for studying the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere. Portable and nearly self-contained, the unit could represent the start of a low-cost global network to provide atmospheric monitoring even in hard-to-reach locations.
Recently, a Goddard team deployed the instrument for field testing high on Mauna Loa, in a remote region considered an analog site for Mars. There, the instrument is being maintained by the crew living in the habitat known as HI-SEAS—short for Hawaiʻi Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, a NASA-funded project run by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa to help prepare for the possibility of long-duration missions on the surfaces of other planets or moons.
—This is an excerpt of a NASA article by Elizabeth Zubritsky.