Mars: red planet, desert planet. Its soil is rich in oxygen for life support and rocket propulsion, and with materials of construction like iron to make steel, and gypsum, the stuff of Mars concrete. Carbon, another essential, is available from the atmosphere, which is mainly carbon dioxide. There is water on Mars. Recent scientific findings tell us that Mars was once the abode of life. Deep beneath the surface, it may still be. Ever since the National Aeronautics and Space Administration withdrew from crewed missions, except for the space shuttle, scientists and engineers at universities and government laboratories have been studying the feasibility of establishing self-sufficient human colonies on Mars.
The Mars Society
has invented a way to solve some of the basic operational problems of life on Mars before humans go. This is your chance to participate. Crew positions include commander, engineer, biologist, geologist, and journalist.
The first of four planned sites is named for Flashline.com, an internet business that donated $175,000 to the project. Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) is based in the polar wilderness of Devon Island, a frozen desert in the northern reaches of Canada. It is not too unlike the northern wastes of Mars, except for the density and composition of the atmosphere.
Typical volunteer crew experiences include extra vehicular activities (EVAs) in space suits and in situ resource utilization (ISRU) projects, the space explorer’s way of living off the land.
The 2009 season crew operated a Maveric unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to scout the terrain for potential resources, supporting the idea that human Mars explorers could launch, operate, and recover a UAV while encumbered by a spacesuit.
One objective was to locate a gypsum deposit. Gypsum is a hydrated calcium sulfate mineral which is 20% water and is found in abundance on Earth and at many locations on Mars.
The crew also deployed low-frequency electromagnetic survey equipment to find, among other things, underground water. They tested a prototype lunar rover. As part of a space medicine research study, they used a class IV high power laser to speed the healing of stress-damaged or bruised tissue.
The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in southern Utah is the second of the planned four sites. The season starts (mid-November) in the fall and ends in the spring (mid-April). There are four two-week “rotations.” Volunteers pay a fixed fee plus transportation to Grand Junction, Colorado, the jumping-off point. Grants are sometimes available for teachers and students.
Approximate cost: $1000 + travel.