Our objectives of this study were to: (i) characterize thermal behavior of caves in the Mojave Desert, CA and the Atacama Desert, northern Chile; (ii) collect aircraft borne thermal imagery from our study sites; (iii) relate the information collected from terrestrial caves to improving our ability to detect caves on Mars; and, (iv) review existing imagery of Mars and identify potential cave targets for further investigation. 

During this three-year study (2008-2011), we collected hourly temperature and barometric pressure data for over two years and developed 3D maps of nearly 20 caves on two continents, and collected over 17,000 thermal images from the Mojave Desert in southern California.  Milestones include (a) using the data to identify the best and worst times to collect thermal imagery of caves, and (b) developing an inexpensive and expeditious method for collecting 3D map data of caves.  The latter is currently being used in two biological conservation projects.

This project was executed and administered through NASA-Ames/ SETI in conjunction with NASA-Goddard, USGS and University of Tennessee-Knoxville.  This project was funded through NASA’s Exobiology Program and the National Speleological Society International Exploration Grants program.

 

Publications & Reports

Wynne, J.J. 2016. The scientific importance of caves in our solar system. NSS News March 2016: 4–7.

Wynne, J.J., T.N. Titus, & P.J. Boston. 2016. Planetary caves’ role in astronaut bases and the search for life. EOS, 97, doi:10.1029/2016EO047295.

Wynne, J.J., J. Jenness, M.D. Jhabvala, T.N. Titus, D. Billings. 2015. Detecting terrestrial caves by applying topographic analysis techniques to thermal imagery. Abstract #9029, 2nd International Planetary Caves Conference, Flagstaff, AZ. 

Titus, T. N., J. J. Wynne, M. D. Jhabvala, G. E. Cushing, P. Shu, N. A. Cabrol. 2011. Cave Detection Using Oblique Thermal Imaging, Abstract #8024, First Interplanetary Cave Research Workshop, Carlsbad, NM.

Ruby, D., J. J. Wynne, and T. N. Titus. 2011. Novel Volumetric Cave Mapping Process Using Existing Technologies, Abstract #8031, First Interplanetary Cave Research Workshop, Carlsbad, NM.

Wynne, J. J., M. Jhabvala, B. Wells, M. Trout, D. Decker, D. Ruby, K. Muhlestein, D. Billings, J. Rice, B. Taylor, D. Loewen, J. Vachon, and N. Cabrol. 2011. Aircraft-borne Thermal and Visible Imagery Acquisition and Ground Data-Instrument Recovery of Caves, Explorers Club Flag Report (Flag # 139), Submitted: 17 June 2011, On file at The Explorers Club, New York, NY.

Wynne, J. J., G. Chong Diaz, J. L. Jara, and N. A. Cabrol. 2011. 2011 Field Operations in Parque Nacional Valle de la Luna, Earth-Mars Cave Detection Project, Interim Report submitted to CONAF.  On file at CONAF, Región de Antofagasta, Chile.

Wynne, J. J., G. Chong Diaz, M. Izurieta Grollmus,W. L. Hicks, J. L. Jara, C. Tambleyand N. A. Cabrol. 2011. Data and Instrument Recovery and Close Out Operations, 2011 Atacama Desert Expedition, Chile, Earth-Mars Cave Detection Project, Explorers Club Flag Report (Flag # 139), Submitted: 18 April 2011, On file at The Explorers Club, New York, NY.

Newcomer,K. B., J. Moersch, N. A. Cabrol, E. Grin, J. J. Wynne, and M. Chojnacki. 2011. Evaluation of A Proposed Technique for Identifying Martian Caves in THEMIS Infared Images, Abstract #2739, LPSC XLII, Houston, TX.

Titus, T. N., J. J. Wynne, D. Ruby, and N. Cabrol. 2010. The Atacama Desert Cave Shredder: A Case for Conduction Thermodynamics, Abstract #1096, LPSC XLI, Houston, TX.

Wynne, J. J., T. N. Titus, M. D. Jhabvala, G. E. Cushing, N. A. Cabrol and E. A. Grin. 2009. Distinguishing Caves from Non-cave Anomalies: Lessons for the Moon and Mars, Abstract #2451, LPSC XL, Houston, TX.

Wynne, J. J. and G. Chong Diaz. 2009.Recuperación de datos microclimáticas de cuevas y mapeo volumétrico, Proyecto de Detección de Cuevas Tierra Marte, Parque Nacional Valle de la Luna, Informa de Progreso 2009. On file at CONAF, Región de Antofagasta, Chile.

Wynne, J.J., T. N. Titus, G. Chong Diaz, C. Colpitts, W. L. Hicks, D. Hill, D. W. Ruby, and C. Tambley. 2009. Cave Microclimate Data Retrieval and Volumetric Mapping, 2009 Atacama Desert Expedition, Chile, Earth-Mars Cave Detection Project, Explorers Club Flag Report (Flag # 52), Submitted 27 October 2009, On file at The Explorers Club, New York, NY.

Cabrol, N. A., E. A. Grin, and J. J. Wynne. 2009. Detection of Caves and Cave-bearing Geology on Mars, Abstract #1040, LPSC XL, Houston, TX.

Wynne, J. J., N. A. Cabrol, G. Chong-Diaz, E. A. Grin, M. D. Jhabvala, J. E. Moersch and T. N. Titus. 2008. Earth-Mars Cave Detection Project, Phase 2 – 2008 Atacama Desert Expedition, Explorers Club Flag Report, Flag #52, On file at The Explorers Club, New York, NY.

 

Professional Presentations

2nd International Planetary Caves Conference, Flagstaff, AZ (2015). Wynne, J.J., J. Jenness, M.D. Jhabvala, T.N. Titus, D. Billings. Detecting terrestrial caves by applying topographic analysis techniques to thermal imagery.

Universidad de Los Andes, Santiago, Chile (2011).  Detección de las Cavernas en los Desiertos de Atacama y Mojave: Terrenos Análogos a Marte (presentación en Español; Invited).

Centro de Biotecnología, Universidad Católica del Norte, Antofagasta, Chile (2011).  Las Cavernas del Desierto de Atacama, Una Analogía para Marte (presentación en Español; Invited).

Museo Mirador de la Biodiversidad, Monumento Natural La Portada, CONAF-Región de Antofagasta, Chile(2011).  Cuevas del Cordillera de la Sal, Una Analogía para Marte (presentación en Español).

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Departamento de Genética Molecular y Microbiología, Santiago (2008). On Detecting Caves on Earth and Cave-Like Structures on Mars (Invited).

 

Popular Press

The Dryden X-Press (NASA Dryden Weekly Newsletter), Cave Detection on Earth, the moon and Mars, technique could be used, Beth Hagenauer, Vol. 53, No. 10, 03 June 11, p. 1, 8. Newsletter.

NASA TV, This Week @ NASA, A Cave Researcher Studies Caves from a NASA Aircraft, Producer Beth Hagenauer (03 June 2011). Television.

Discovery Channel, Daily Planet, Digging for Life,Producer Frances MacKinnon (24 May 2011).Television.

NASA Dryden Flight Research Center’s Feature Web Page, NASA Aircraft aids Earth-Mars Cave Detection Study (12 May 2011), Beth Hagenauer. Web Media.

Tähdet Ja Avaruus (Finnish Astronomy Magazine), 2/2011: 14-19, Luolatutkija tähyää Marsiin (A Cave Researcher Looks at Mars), Mikko Suominen. National Magazine.

Science et Vie, Mars 2010: 79, Paris, France, Déserts, La face cachée des terres les plus arides: Désert de L’Atacama, Chili, Avant d’explorer Mars…, Éric Hamonou (Mars 2010). National Magazine.

El Mercurio de Santiago, Chile, p. C13, NASA prepara vuelos tripulados a Marte en cavernas de Atacama (10 May 2009). National Newspaper.

Planetary Society Radio, Jut Wynne in the Caves of the Atacama, Producer Mat Kaplin (18 August 2008). Web/ Podcast.

Discovery Channel, Student Science Blog; Water Found in Earth's Driest Place (09 August 2008). Web Media.

El Mercurio de Santiago, Chile, p. C11, Cavernas del desierto de Atacama son el nuevo laboratorio de pruebas de la  NASA (03 August 2008). National Newspaper.

El Mercurio de Antofagasta, Chile, Preparan viajes a Marte en cuevas de la región (29 July 2008). Regional Newspaper.

LiveScience.com, Incredible Discoveries Made in Remote Caves, Robert Roy Britt (31 July 2008). Web Media.