Iceland review - 2002, Blaðsíða 75

Iceland review - 2002, Blaðsíða 75
ICELAND REVIEW 73 LUST FOR LIFE — Researchers (left and below) search the terrestial deserts of Utah for signs of life in preparation for The Mars Society’s first human expedition to—that’s right—Mars. Optimistically, they might pull off a mission in less than 20 years. In the meantime, the Society has simulated expeditions in Utah, Antarctica, and now, the Euro-Mars project is setting up camp in Iceland’s Martian-like Mývatn, pictured above. for its Martian-like geology and bustling volcanic activity. With its pseudocraters, water-soaked terrain and catastrophic Jökulsársandar plains, the area bears a striking resemblance to the planet Mars. The area even has a canyon, dug in only a few weeks by ice bursts, which are very similar to those found on Mars. The scouting team dropped by the offices of Iceland Review, to tell of their exciting escapades. The team explains that the project is “not just fun and games”. Once the researchers are in the habitat, they have to act as if they are actually situated on the planet Mars. This means that there is no escaping to the local fast-food joint for a quick bite; dried food and vegetables from the space greenhouse will have to do. The researchers will be wearing spacesuits for the entire research session, which lasts for two weeks. Inside their spacesuits, a fan will constantly refresh their air supply and everything they say will be recorded. The researchers cannot use their senses as they would on Earth. For instance, they would not be able to hear or use peripheral vision in their suits, plus they can’t lick rocks to dif- ferentiate between minerals. “They are in spacesuits day in and day out. This is very differ- ent than being in a laboratory. The labs cannot in any way, shape or size substitute for getting out into the real world,” says Bo Maxwell, president of the Mars Society UK. The team goes on to explain that field research can yield very useful information that cannot be found in a sample tube or by carrying out a scientific test. The three scouts met with Icelandic government officials and scholars during their stay, to discuss the project. They agree that the first contacts were very positive. The team also held a lecture for the physics department of the University of Iceland, before heading north to explore the future sight at Mývatn / Krafla. The Next Big Step “It’s a huge advantage to send humans to Mars, rather than robots. It’s more costly, but more information is gathered. You get more bang for the buck,” says Charles Frankel, from Association Planete Mars in France. He explains that it costs seven million dollars to send one kilo to Mars, and ten billion dollars to send one man, but the man collects 1000 times more information than the one kilo robot. Mr. Frankel has been a crew geologist on board the Mars Society’s Arctic Research Station. “You can’t give a computer experience,” says Frankel. “We now only have puffin- standard robots, which are a long way away from cognitive greatness,” he adds. His colleague, Artemis Westenberg, PR and Communications Representative for the association, agrees and says that sending human beings is “the next great step”. The team says that the goal is to send the first manned mission to Mars by the year 2020, although it would be realistic to go in 10–12 years if enough backing could be found. “We want to find out if people can live and work on Mars and become a spacefar- ing civilisation,” says Mr. Maxwell. When asked if the team had any last words before departing on their scouting mission to the north of Iceland, Westenberg, ever the PR man, was quick to reply: “Earth is the cradle of humankind, but one doesn’t stay in the cradle forever.” A quote from Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the father of aeronautics and rocket dynamics, and a fitting end. x72 IR302 - Mars bs -km 2.9.2002 17:05 Page 73
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