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Jeffrey Moersch, professor of earth and planetary sciences, will present “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Studies of Mars-like Landscapes on Earth” at this week’s Science Forum, to be held at noon Friday, February 24.

Moersch’s talk will be held in Thompson-Boling Arena Café, Rooms C-D. The 40-minute presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer discussion.

The Science Forum is free and open to the public. Attendees may bring their own lunch or purchase lunch at the café.

Terrestrial analogs are places on Earth that share one or more important geologic characteristics with features found on other planets, like Mars. These sites are commonly used to prepare astronauts for surface extra-vehicular activity.

In-depth studies of such locations are useful because they provide a better understanding of the processes that may have been active on other planets and help us refine exploration strategies for future planetary missions.

Moersch has worked on terrestrial analog studies related to Mars for the past 20 years using traditional field techniques and recently has added the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or “drones”) to his approach.

In his talk, Moersch will discuss the added value that UAVs bring to this type of work, with examples of analog sites in the high Arctic, the Atacama Desert, the Mojave Desert, and Iceland.

The Science Forum began in 1933 and is sponsored by UT’s Quest research magazine. The forum was designed to provide the public, students, and other researches a chance to learn about scientific research void of jargon.



Mark Littmann (865-974-8756,

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,