Sunday, April 03, 2005

Mars on Earth

I was a guest on a second Mars related panel at the CondorCon science fiction convention in San Diego recently. I joined Gerry Williams and Jeff Berkwits of the Mars Society of San Diego for a panel discussion of the Mars Society's analog research station in the Utah desert.

MDRS, as the Utah station is called, is a simulated Mars lander with a greenhouse and an observatory. The station is about 30 feet in diameter and 2 stories high. It houses 6 researchers in individual second-floor staterooms. Additional living facilities are located on the same floor. The first floor has an airlock, a work station, and a laboratory.

The Mars Society operates the station using private donations and membership dues and contributions. The station is open from Fall through the Spring with crews that rotate in and out every two weeks. Researchers at the station do all their outside activities in space suits in order to simulate the conditions of working on Mars. MDRS is in its fourth year.

MDRS and its companion station in the Arctic Circle comprise the most sustained analog research program for learning how to live on Mars being conducted by anybody here on Earth. It's one of the things that makes me proud to be a member of the Mars Society. The San Diego chapter has been involved in providing mission support for the Utah station. San Diego member Shannon Rupert Robles has been a crew member and commander at both the Utah and the Arctic station. She also heads the station's science research program.

Check out the latest news from Mars on Earth here.

-tdr

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