A manned mission to Mars could happen by the end of this century.
The Mars Desert Research Station, located in a remote region of Utah, is helping scientists prepare for this challenging deep space expedition.
The desert landscape has been used to simulate the conditions on Mars because of its striking resemblance to the Red Planet’s terrain.
Scientists and students come from all over the world to spend two weeks exploring canyons, cliffs, and rockscapes, while dealing with the constraints they would face on Mars.
There are no supermarkets, repair shops, or hardware stores. The only available resources and tools are what each team brings into the desert with them.
The variety of experiments conducted by different crews adds to the growing body of research and knowledge that will be used to send the first humans to a world that so far, only robots have known.
The Mars Desert Research Station is located in a remote region of south-central Utah known as the the San Rafael Swell.
The Swell is a 2,000 square mile area of public land, known for its canyons and sandstone formations — a terrain that is very similar to Mars.
Each year, the Society places an open call for volunteers, who can apply as individuals or as group, typically from a university or country.
Different crews have different priorities. The types of experiments they conduct in the desert will vary, but every exercise must first gain approval from the Mars Society.
The station has its own greenhouse, called the Greenhab, which is used to recycle waste water and to grow plants. Here, a researcher checks on a Swiss chard plant.
What are the best vehicles to use — an enclosed SUV that offers protection against the elements, or an open vehicle that requires the driver to wear a spacesuit?
Scientists also observe how different teams handle unexpected hazards, like this sandstorm that crept up on Crew 128A.
In addition to a living space and greenhouse, the station has an observatory, shown here, equipped with a telescope that allows the team astronomer to observe the skies.
The background and skills of team members have varied considerably. The stations has hosted all men crews, all women, all American, mixed international, young crews, and old crews.
All of this information will be invaluable for sending the first humans to Mars, with luck, in the next few decades.
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