Penguin Powered

NASA gives a boost to geology project

Denver Post

Friday, June 16, 2000

By The Associated Press

SOCORRO -- New Mexico Tech and the state Bureau of Mines got high-quality help in mapping underground geologic structures around Taos–NASA astronaut candidates.

The underground information gathered in the joint research and training program last summer has allowed researchers to better understand how specific locations of buried fractures, or faults, in the Earth's crust, correlate with the extent and location of groundwater.

At the same time, 31 prospective astronauts got hands-on training on conducting geophysical field surveys and learned knowledge and skills that could have practical applications in out-of-this-world locales, such as looking for water below the surface of Mars.

The joint project has earned the research group the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center Group Achievement Award.

The Taos-area landscape long has given geologists examples of various landforms to study and has been the backdrop for astronaut training exercises stretching back to NASA's Apollo missions of the late 1960's.

Last summer's training exercise, however, was the first collaborative project with geoscientists from Tech and the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources.

The program, which used gravity measurements to map geologic structures far below the Taos mesa, ran astronaut candidates through all kinds of exercises.

They collected geophysical data and then would radio the data back to a "Mars base," which was actually a pickup truck said Paul W. Bauer, assistant director and senior geologist for the Bureau. "Geologists at "Mars base" would enter the data into their laptop, and then process the gravity data that very day."

Bauer said the program provided geophysical information that should prove useful in evaluating ground water availability in the Taos area


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