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 characterizing and understanding planetary surfaces and interiors. Laboratory personnel have been or are currently involved in the Viking Lander, Mars Global Surveyor, Odyssey, Mars Exploration Rover, Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Science Laboratory, and the European Space Agency's Mars Express (Omega instrument). We also participated in the Magellan Mission to Venus and the 2008 NASA Mars Phoenix Lander mission. Testing of prototype Mars rovers and other systems in Earth's deserts and on volcanoes in Hawaii in collaboration with colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been another focus over the past two decades.
Our science emphasis can be stated broadly as defining the global habitability of planets, with a current focus on Mars and 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 from orbital, landed, and rover-based platforms, together with development and use 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 instrument teams and other suppliers to generate and distribute fully documented peer-reviewed data products.