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Field geological research, as traditionally practiced on Earth, is an extremely flexible science. Although field geologists plan their traverses ahead of time—nowadays with the advantage of remote-sensing data—initial plans are continually modified in response to observations, such that traverses evolve over time. This research modality differs from that utilized in extreme environments on Earth (e.g., on the ocean floor), on the Martian surface by the mobile laboratories Spirit and Opportunity, and by the Apollo astronauts during their explorations of the Moon. Harsh and alien conditions, time constraints, and resource limitations have led to the development of operational modes that provide a constrained and usually lower science return than traditional field geology. However, emerging plans for renewed human exploration of the Moon, Mars, and near-Earth asteroids serve as an opportunity to invent a new paradigm for advanced planetary field geology that embraces coordinated human and robotic research activities. This approach will introduce an operational flexibility that is more like that of traditional field geology on Earth. In addition, human and robotic collaborations, combined with the integration of new “smart” tools, should provide an augmented reality that leads to even greater science return than traditional field geology. In order to take full advantage of these opportunities when planetary field geology again becomes practical, it is imperative for field geologists on Earth to begin right now to learn how best to incorporate advanced technologies into their research. Geologic studies of analog sites on Earth that employ new technology-enabled strategies rather than traditional research methods provide ideal opportunities to test and refine emerging designs for advanced planetary field geologic studies, as well as to gain new insights into terrestrial geologic processes. These operational experiments will be most informative if they embrace the entire geologic research process—including problem definition, field observation, and laboratory analysis—and not simply field work. The results of such comprehensive research can be used to inform the design of a maximally effective training regimen for future astronaut explorers.

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