Lavatubes From Earth to Mars Field Conference

Sept. 25-26, Grants, NM
Chaco Canyon optional Field Trip – Sept. 27-28

Original announcement: Lavatubes Circular.

The gorgeous fall weather of northern New Mexico provided a pleasant backdrop for this field conference to the lavatubes of El Malpais National Monument.  The geological setting, a series of lavaflows that have occurred over a span of the past 100, 000 years, served as a reminder that a great deal of the visible terrain on Mars is of volcanic origin.  Lavatube entrances appear to be faily common on the planet and a number of them are under study to confirm that they are indeed lavatube structures.

A total of 25 participants from 11 institutions (NASA Centers and universities) toured several lavatube sites, especially Four Windows Lavatube (shown in the meeting circular).  The geology, geomicrobiology, and potential extraterrestrial implications of such structures were discussed by participants and presenters.  A robotic demonstration by Roger Quinn from Case Western of his Whegs robot, a tasty picnic lunch, and beautiful ponderosa pines on the volcanic landscape all contributed to an enjoyable day.

On the second day, participants presented a series of talks on aspects of lavatubes ranging from the geology and geomicrobiology to extraterrestrial detection and robotic and other engineering considerations.  An evening banquet at the well known La Ventana Restaurant (named for the nearby huge natural sandstone arch), was capped off with an entertaining talk on the Phoenix Mission by Phoenix team member Carol Stoker.

The third day saw the departure homeward of some participants, but a subset (14 people) headed for the Anasazi Indian ruin at Chaco Canyon for an overnight camping trip.  This site once housed a major urban center of the Anasazi Indians (ancestors of the modern Pueblo, Hopi, Zuni, and Acoma  peoples).  The immense and numerous stone structures of a unique and elaborate type of masonry reminded us that a high culture once flourished here in an extreme and arid environment, another connection to thoughts of a future human presence on Mars in an even more challenging environment but armed with a technology that would have amazed our ancient Anasazi cousins.

Photos may be seen on Bill Clancey’s website here.

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