Category Archives: 2014 – Summer Research

Exploring the Pisgah Craters in the Mojave

Willie controls and tests Ramon’s movements as the team deliberates how best to navigate the rover in the caves.
Alberto explores the lava tubes and gets Ramon ready to take samples.
Left: Ramon scans the cave walls for signs of life with a 532 nm laser Raman probe, while the team collects data remotely. Top right: The Raman shift in wave numbers of the pale white mineral deposit previously characterized by Pandora. The Raman activity between 900 and 1100 cm-1 is characteristic of sulfate and phosphate anions. Bottom right: A digital 3D map of a lava tube that Ramon explored.

Life in Lava Tubes

Over the summer 2013, the HMC Astrobiology lab (also known as the Extravehicular Instrument Laboratory – EVIL) partnered with HMC’s Lab for Autonomous and Intelligent Robotics (LAIR) to document a project exploring life in lava tubes in the Mojave Desert. LAIR’s Jaguar Lite robots produced a map of a lava tube, while EVIL’s Pandora scanned the walls of the desert caves in search for signs of life using Laser Induced Fluorescence Emission (LIFE) spectroscopy. The effort is part of an ongoing project to develop an autonomous system capable of exploring lava tubes on Mars and one day exoplanets beyond the reach of human exploration.


For further information on this project, visit the lava tube sites at LAIR and the Kinohi Institute.