Andy: ...deposits left behind. This entire area, thousands of years ago, during the last ice age was covered by thick glaciers.
Every year one of the major components of the Lunar and Planetary Science Academy internship program is a field study to an analog site, a planetary analog site. So this year we selected the Channeled Scablands of eastern Washington state. The topographic features and the geomorphological features here are similar to a lot of things that we're seeing on Mars. We're seeing huge river valleys cut by massive floods of water And we also see columnar jointed basalts, which is something that was recently discovered on Mars with the HiRISE aerial camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
To look at these basalts, we took hand measurements. We measured their widths and a few other features to make inferences about their cooling history, and then we took aerial photographs using an RC plane, provided by a program called R-Step, and a hexacopter, which is a six-propellered helicopter and our goal was to achieve the same resolution in these photos as we're seeing in the HiRISE images of the Martian columnar basalts. It's really convenient when we can find somewhere on Earth that's similar to something we're seeing on another planet because it's a whole heck of a lot cheaper to study here than to study there. So we learn what's going on here and then we can sort of extrapolate our findings to apply them to other planetary surfaces.