Environmental stewardship is a foremost priority of the WISSARD project. "To ensure that surface microbes and chemicals are not introduced during sampling, we will spend the next year rigorously testing the procedures and equipment that will be used to drill into and access these pristine subglacial environments," said Christner. "A special hot water drill is currently being built that will use heat, filtration and an ultraviolet treatment to sterilize the water that will be used to drill to the base of the ice sheet and prevent contamination."
The other two WISSARD components, LISSARD, Lake and Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling, and RAGES, Robotics Access to Grounding-zones for Exploration and Science, will allow GBASE to cast its results in a holistic ecosystem perspective. The three projects are connected scientifically through common interest in coupled fluxes of ice, subglacial sediments, nutrients and water. WISSARD provides the opportunity to collect direct observations that will elucidate fundamental scientific questions pertaining to past and future marine ice sheet stability, biodiversity in the cryosphere and how the biology of these systems mobilizes major nutrients to the ocean.
As part of the WISSARD program, GBASE will investigate what may be one of the last unexplored aquatic environments on Earth, which represents a plausible analogue for extraterrestrial life habitats that may exist on Europa and Mars.
"This is the largest and most exciting project I've ever been a part of," said Christner. "Subglacial exploration will be at the forefront of polar research in the future, and I'm confident that the years to follow will prove to be a very interesting time of discovery."
|Contact: Ashley Berthelot|
Louisiana State University