First Mode and Western Washington University Announce NASA Contract to Develop Geological Research Technology

by | Oct 4, 2019

SEATTLE – First Mode, a design, engineering, and complex system development firm, today announced that NASA has awarded First Mode and Western Washington University (WWU) a contract to develop technology for geological research. The resulting technology will fill a crucial gap in current knowledge and improve scientific understanding of the surface history of Mars.

The work is funded through NASA's Planetary Science Division under its Solar System Workings (SSW) Program with Melissa Rice at WWU serving as the Principal Investigator (PI). The automated instrument, a goniometer, will enable spectral observations of rocks at different angles. Learn more.

First Mode is also assisting NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Mars 2020 Mission to send a 2,300-pound rover to the surface of Mars. The Mars 2020 Mission contains instrumentation that will make similar measurements to those the goniometer will make in the lab at WWU. The Mars 2020 science team could benefit directly from the fundamental research of this SSW program. 

First Mode is excited to partner with Western Washington University and NASA as we seek to improve our understanding of the Martian surface, Chris Voorhees, President and Chief Engineer of First Mode, said. As we prepare for further surface missions, including the Mars 2020 Rover and Mars Sample Return, a solid base of scientific research and understanding is essential in getting the most from our robotic systems.

In addition to space applications, the geological research could be relevant to other First Mode clients and partners in the natural resources industry. The problems we like the most cross industry boundaries. By drawing from our team's experience in geology, automation, and the mining and metals industry, we can create a better tool for deep space exploration, Voorhees commented. We're also pleased to share that after development, the entire goniometer design and software package will be publicly released.

Kathleen Hoza, systems engineer and geologist at First Mode, was responsible for creating a 2D prototype goniometer while pursuing her M.S. in geology at WWU under Melissa Rice. This pilot study laid the groundwork for the 3D goniometer proposal. “I couldn’t be more excited about continuing to work on this research, Kathleen Hoza said. The science potential is significant and far-reaching, and we have a powerful combined team with experts from First Mode and Western Washington University.

About First Mode

First Mode “ Building the Barely Possible

First Mode is revolutionizing the design, engineering, and development of technology for industries on and off the planet. First Mode harnesses the tools and technologies developed for the robotic exploration of the solar system and adapts them to mission critical and safety critical projects on Earth, Mars, the Moon, and other planetary bodies. While no two solutions are the same, First Mode typically melds hardware, software, strategy, and design to build the barely possible for our clients.


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