Nomad Rover Field Experiment, Atacama Desert, Chile: 2. Identification of paleolife evidence using a robotic vehicle: Lessons and recommendations for a Mars sample return mission


  • N. A. Cabrol,

  • E. A. Bettis III,

  • B. Glenister,

  • G. Chong,

  • C. Herrera,

  • A. Jensen,

  • M. Pereira,

  • C. R. Stoker,

  • E. A. Grin,

  • R. Landheim,

  • G. Thomas,

  • J. Golden,

  • K. Saville,

  • G. Ludvigson,

  • B. Witzke


During the Nomad Rover Field Experiment in the Atacama Desert (Chile), a potential fossil was identified in a boulder by the science team remotely located at NASA Ames Research Center, California. The science team requested the collecting of the boulder that was returned for laboratory analysis. This analysis confirmed the evidence of paleolife. As the first fossil identified and sampled by a remotely located science team using a rover, we use the case of sample I-250697 to describe the process, both in the field and later in the laboratory during the rock analysis, which led to the identification, characterization, and confirmation of the evidence of paleolife evidence in I-250697. We point out the lessons that this case provides for future Mars sample return missions.