The Earth and Planetary Remote Sensing Laboratory is involved in many aspects of planetary exploration, including developing science objectives and plans for missions, participating in mission operations and data analysis, and archiving and distributing data relevant to planetary surfaces and interiors. Laboratory personnel have been or are currently involved in science teams and archiving roles for the Mars Viking Lander, Magellan Venus Orbiter, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, Mars Exploration Rover (Spirit and Opportunity), Mars Phoenix Lander, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover), Mars 2020 Rover Mission (Perseverance), and the European Space Agency’s Mars Express Orbiter missions. In addition, we have collaborated with colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to test prototype Mars rovers and other systems in Earth’s deserts and volcanoes. We are also involved in planning and archiving data for the InSight Mars Lander and Dragonfly (quadcopter to Titan in 2034) missions.
Our science emphasis can be stated broadly as defining the global habitability of planets, with a current focus on Mars, in particular the past and present conditions that may have been suitable for the development and evolution of life. The unraveling of geological processes and defining geochemical cycles of possible biological relevance form the core of the research. Remote sensing data from orbital, landed, and rover-based platforms, together with the development of quantitative approaches for modeling the data and processes are our primary tools.
As the home of the Geosciences Node of the NASA Planetary Data System, the Laboratory is responsible for archiving data for planetary surfaces and interiors. We work directly with mission instrument teams and other data providers to generate, distribute, and preserve fully documented peer-reviewed science archives.