Google Play icon

Dry run for the 2020 Mars mission

Share
Posted June 25, 2013
Somewhere on Mars, the Red Planet? No, it’s somewhere in the Atacama Desert, the closest approximation on our planet to a Martian landscape. Credit: Wikimedia

Somewhere on Mars, the Red Planet? No, it’s somewhere in the Atacama Desert, the closest approximation on our planet to a Martian landscape. Credit: Wikimedia

A film director looking for a location where a movie about Mars could be shot might consider the Atacama Desert, one of the harshest landscapes the planet has to offer. Due to the accidents of its geography, Atacama is the driest place on Earth. Some scientists believe there was no rain to speak of in part of the Atacama between 1570 and 1971. With little moisture in the air its salt lakes, sand dunes and lava flows broil or freeze and are blasted by ultraviolet radiation.

The conditions make the Atacama a splendid place to test instruments for future Mars missions.

“If you’re practicing to find life on Mars, you don’t want to go to a lush environment,” says Alian Wang, PhD, research professor in the earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and a participant in NASA’s ASTEP program to advance the technology and techniques used in planetary exploration.

This month, under the auspices of ASTEP, a Carnegie-Mellon University rover named Zoe set out into the Atacama. It is scheduled to spend the next four weeks traveling between waypoints with interesting geology and analyzing soil samples, both ones from the surface and ones dredged up from deep underground.

Subsurface samples pulled up by a meter-long drill and dumped into sample cups carried by a carousel are to be examined by a laser Raman spectrometer called the Mars Microbeam Raman Spectrometer, or MMRS.

Read more at: Phys.org

Featured news from related categories:

Technology Org App
Google Play icon
85,465 science & technology articles

Most Popular Articles

  1. New treatment may reverse celiac disease (October 22, 2019)
  2. "Helical Engine" Proposed by NASA Engineer could Reach 99% the Speed of Light. But could it, really? (October 17, 2019)
  3. The World's Energy Storage Powerhouse (November 1, 2019)
  4. Plastic waste may be headed for the microwave (October 18, 2019)
  5. Universe is a Sphere and Not Flat After All According to a New Research (November 7, 2019)

Follow us

Facebook   Twitter   Pinterest   Tumblr   RSS   Newsletter via Email