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An update on NASA Geology Astronaut Training

Jacob Bleacher
Missions (Including Commercial)
Delivered As: 
Abstract Text: 

Field geology training was a fundamental aspect of the scientific success of the Apollo Program. Astronauts of the Shuttle Program era received one week of training related to orbital observations of the Earth. Future human exploration of the Solar System could include scientific research on or in the vicinity of planetary bodies. Thus, a need exists for a revitalized Astronaut training program related to the conduct of scientific study throughout the Solar System. In 2008, in preparation for NASA’s 2009 Astronaut Candidate Class, a geology training program was initiated to build upon the orbital Science training provided to Shuttle Astronauts. The geology training can be generally divided among three main approaches: 1) class room teaching and field exercises, 2) a field assistant program, and 3) integrated analog field tests. Classroom and field exercises incorporate an “outcrop to orbit” perspective and training for each geoscience discipline integrates orbital observations as could be made from ISS. The field component of geology training is also integrated with a Crew Office requirement to routinely provide expeditionary training and team building experiences. The program has trained two successive classes of astronauts, as well as having exposed engineers and managers to geologic field training. Although not officially part of Astronaut training, the success of the program prompted a detailed review, using the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group Specific Action Team (LEAG-SAT) process, to prepare for the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class and beyond. Besides evaluating the curriculum presented to the previous classes, this Geology Astronaut Training (GAT) SAT developed an updated training program for the 2017 class and designed a field assistant program that has a more consistent investigator team, with predictable funding and regular schedule. In addition, conducting geologic investigations in situations that continues to develop teamwork and management skills in outdoor settings serves to improve skills in both areas. Geology training that was developed and implemented within NASA for the 2009 and 2013 astronaut classes included NASA personnel, US and State Geological Survey personnel and participants from academia. A sustained training effort continues to build upon lessons learned from those past training efforts, as well as the Apollo geology training, continues to reestablish or strengthen the links between NASA and professional geologists outside of NASA, and exposes several early career participants to the institutional Apollo knowledge base that is now retired or might be retired over the next decade. The program will be flexible and evolved to support different human destinations and objectives. By providing geoscience training to astronauts the training program helps to develop a Crew Office with a healthy understanding of how science fits within human exploration of the Solar System and provides experience for the next generation of field trainers.

"A. Colaprete (ARC)...
SSERVI Identifier: 

Recognizing that science and human exploration are mutually enabling, NASA created the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) to address basic and applied scientific questions fundamental to understanding the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and the near space environments of these target bodies. As a virtual institute, SSERVI funds investigators at a broad range of domestic institutions, bringing them together along with international partners via virtual technology to enable new scientific efforts."