The Goddard Instrument Field Team (GIFT) is a group of scientists and engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as well as their external collaborators. The team focuses on conducting field research campaigns in geologic settings that are analogous to locations on other planets and moons throughout the Solar System. We call these sites “planetary analogs,” and they help us learn how to interpret data from across the Solar System while focusing on understanding Earth better.
Just as we send spacecraft to explore other planets, we have a fleet of Earth-observing spacecraft that provide comparable data about our own world. Every space mission, whether Earth-focused or planetary-focused, provides data that helps us understand the local environment and the history or events that shaped the landscape. Often, though, it seems that for every answer we gain, we develop more new questions.
One way to answer these questions is to develop new instruments. At GIFT, we conduct field studies on Earth to help better inform the development of new instruments that could fly to other planets or could probe our home planet. Earth is but one of a series of planets that formed together in our Solar System, and there are many lessons to be learned about our celestial neighbors by studying our world. We also can learn more about our environment here at home by looking to other planets. GIFT carries out field deployments to a variety of locations to study the local geology and environment and looks at how those rocks might reveal knowledge about past environments. We use the lessons learned during those deployments to help develop new instruments and to improve instruments that will someday explore other parts of the Solar System to try and answer similar questions.