NASA is inviting the public to choose an area in northern Arizona where explorers will conduct part of the annual Desert Research and Technology Studies, known as Desert RATS.
“Desert RATS is an annual test where NASA takes equipment and crews into the field to simulate future planetary exploration missions,” said Joe Kosmo, Desert RATS manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We want the public to be a part of this.”
From July 27 through Aug. 8, 2010, space enthusiasts can vote where to send the Desert RATS team, which includes engineers, scientists and astronauts. To cast your vote, visit http://desertrats2010.arc.nasa.gov
The website features interactive panoramic images of lava, rocks and desert for the public to choose as the most interesting destination to explore. The location that receives the most votes will be announced Aug. 16, 2010. Astronauts will visit that site to perform field geology and collect rock samples.
The Intelligent Robotics Group at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., took the panoramic images of terrain and geologic features in early 2009 at Black Point Lava Flow in Arizona.
“It is essential to involve the public in NASA’s exploration program to engage and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers,” said IRG Director Terry Fong. “We want people of all ages to be able to actively participate, contribute and collaborate in meaningful ways to NASA’s activities.”
The Desert Rats 2010 mission also involves field testing two space exploration vehicles, which could allow astronauts to spend two or more weeks living, working and traveling across different planets. Astronauts will use two such vehicles to explore a lava flow and test data collection methods, communications protocols, mission operations and advanced technology. Desert RATS is sponsored by NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.
For more information about Desert RATS, visit http://www.nasa.gov/desertrats