Tricorders & Sensors

Tricorder Tech: Away Teams Are Using A “Pre-Tricorder” Spectrometer In The Field – Today

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
September 15, 2023
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Tricorder Tech: Away Teams Are Using A “Pre-Tricorder” Spectrometer In The Field – Today
This hand-held spectrometer gives NASA scientists like Alexandra on-the-spot information about the minerals each rock is made of. Mineral info, together with subsurface data from the Ground-Penetrating Radar and Seismic Teams, helps us interpret Long Valley Caldera’s geologic history.

When we start to roam around other worlds we’re going to need the sort of things that a Star Trek “Tricorder” does. Indeed, we need these tools now as we continue to explore our own planet. As depicted in Star Trek, tricorders seem to have an endless, Swiss army knife catalog of capabilities and always seems to come up with the answers that an Away Team needs. We have some of those functions today in the tools we carry into the field albeit they are somewhat larger devices that can do one thing – very well. Just bring batteries and a backpack.

Pictured above is a ASD TerraSpec Halo Mineral Identifier a near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy instrument which the manufacturer describes as “For exploration and mine geologists, the ASD TerraSpec® Halo mineral identifier is the next generation all-in-one mineral analysis system that allows you to immediately identify alteration minerals with a simple pull of a trigger for faster delineation of alteration, speedier core logging and quick confirmation of ore mineralogy.”

Its a hefty device with a lot of capability – but it is hefty. Here the specs and below are some comments about this device is used by explorers in the field today. As you read through this try and imagine this reduced in size to something that fits in your pocket 😉

Ulyana Nadia Horodyskyj, founder and owner of Science in the Wild Using a Halo Mineral Identifier

Explorer and scientist Dr. Ulyana Nadia Horodyskyj Pena with Science in the Wild reveals how she reaches new heights in her work – Science in the Wild: How portable technology can reveal landscape-scale environmental changes

“The ASD TerraSpec Halo Mineral Identifier is a great tool for participants to use in the field, to aid in the identification of rocks and minerals in situ and instantaneously. This is especially useful for those coming in with minimal to no field geology experience. While we teach basic rock and mineral identification, secondary (alteration) minerals are tougher to identify and yet they can tell us more about what kinds of climatic conditions the landscape faced in the past (e.g., alteration by water). The Halo is like something out of Star Trek when the characters explored other worlds and scanned the atmospheres and soils to find out what they were made of. It is amazing how far technology has come, just even in the last decade, to make something like this portable and possible now in the field.”

ASD TerraSpec Halo Mineral Identifier

Malvern Panalytical’s ASD TerraSpec Halo for the Mine Geologist – An overview by geometallurgist Stacey Leichliter

“Introduced late 2013, the TerraSpec Halo is a near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy instrument developed by ASD, a Malvern Panalytical brand, available for the mining industry. Long used by exploration geologists to map alteration mineralogy, NIR is a popular tool in the mining sector although it has historically been a bulky but transportable apparatus that required a certain level of expertise to operate. The TerraSpec Halo was designed specifically for exploration geologists to be much more portable and easy to use in the field. Its lightweight design makes it applicable for mine geologists as well. NIR is used by mine geologists to help identify important and detrimental minerals, which can aid in determining how to separate the ore from the waste. The portability of the TerraSpec Halo allows the Mine Geologist to field identify valuable and problematic mineralogy in ores for stockpiling, extraction, and other tasks. This efficient ore control method reduces risk and provides the finest ores for processing, which reduces costs and increases profits.”

We featured similar Tricorder-type field technology last year in these stories:

Astrobiology, Tricorder

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻