The area where we are located varies quite a bit from green (with lovely yellow flowers) and full of pine trees - to very desert like at the actual site.
An overview of the site, on the edge of the lava flow. Very dry compared to the area closer to Flagstaff, we are 40 miles out. VAPoR lives in the big tent in the middle of the picture.
This video explains what Desert RATS is:
The current scenario is as follows:
A crew consisting of 2 astronauts and 2 geologist goes out with a rover. They test different scenarios of extra vehicular activities, including sample collection. Samples are then brought bake to the GeoLab in the Habitat Demonstration Unit/Deep Space Habitat (HDU/DSH).
A second crew of same composition resides in the DSH (and even sleeps there for two nights). They accept the samples and analyze them in collaboration with the scientist in the science team at JSC, Houston and the scientists here in the field. The HDU/DSH is the white construction in the middle of the picture below.
Specially for VAPoR one sample is collected in an organically clean way - using gloves or aluminum foil to pick up the sample and storing them in an aluminum foil bag, to prevent any contamination from hands, tools, bags and potential other factors. A fragment of this sample is then analyzed by VAPoR as a stand alone instrument in the big tent. The rest of the sample is transported into the glovebox of the DSH where it is photographed, imaged by the ASU/JPL Multispectral Microscopic Imager (MMI) and a hand held XRF (X-Ray refractometer).
Glenn Sellar (JPL) in the GeoLab setting up the MMI for use by the crew:
One of the other experiments in the DSH - growing vegetables