Active seismic exploration along a human lunar mission traverse analogue in the San Francisco volcanic field

Ernest Bell, Nicholas Schmerr, Ryan Porter, Jacob Bleacher, Kelsey Young, Mong Han Huang, Vedran Lekic, Donald Pettit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lunar surface activities during Apollo and terrestrial analogue lunar mission simulations have commonly focused on traverses that prioritize surface observations and sample collection activities. Along the way, geophysical measurements are often made. However, they are not necessarily made in a way that optimizes information about the physical subsurface properties, which is something that geophysics can provide. In 2010, NASA simulated a high-quality multiweek human lunar rover traverse analogue mission in the San Francisco volcanic field in Arizona. The traverse route and associated science station locations were selected based on addressing surface observation and sampling tasks. Geophysical studies were not included in the simulation. We returned to the same field area and obtained data on 19 active seismic refraction geophone lines from the science station locations accessed during the simulation. We analyzed the data to calculate 1D seismic velocity profiles for each of the lines. Results revealed up to seven distinct seismically defined material types, including a nearly ubiquitous veneer of regolith of variable thickness at the surface. Results also provided depth and thickness of the seven material types in the first 60 m of the subsurface at each of the science station locations. These cannot be obtained by geologic observations of the outcrops. Systematic interpretation of the area's overall subsurface stratigraphy was not feasible due to the geophysically nonsystematic nature of the original traverse's prioritization of the science station locations. The added geophysical understanding of a region could drive additional geologic investigations to locate samples of otherwise unknown material through the location of surface exposures or coring. This emphasizes the importance of synchronizing geologic and geophysical research requirements during lunar traverse planning and execution to optimize addressing scientific and utilization questions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)690-699
Number of pages10
JournalLeading Edge
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022


  • field experiments
  • geophones
  • refraction
  • seismic
  • volcanics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geology


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