Mars, mocked- Current mock Mars missions

The first of 2 "mock" Mars missions has kicked off! Find out more about the importance of these missions to the future human exploration of Mars.

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On September 24, 2016, the first of two 80-day mock Mars missions (Mars Desert 80) began in Utah at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS). The crew members at the MDRS live in the “Hab” (habitat). This 2-story building contains an extravehicular activity (EVA) prep room, exterior and rear airlocks, laboratory, bathrooms, bedrooms, and a fully operational kitchen. The Hab replicates living quarters that might exist on Mars someday (like in the Matt Damon movie The Martian). The Mars Society has conducted more than 160 simulated Mars missions at MDRS so far, but Mars Desert 80 will be the longest mission to date.

The second phase (Mars Arctic 80) will occur in the Canadian Arctic at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS). This mission is scheduled to begin June 2017. The environmental conditions at FMARS most closely match those on Mars: Cold and dry with year-round permafrost. Temperatures in the Arctic range from -30°C (-22°F) to 10°C (50°F). In the mid-latitudes, temperatures on Mars can vary from -50°C to only about 0°C. The Hab at FMARS is similar to that at MDRS, and, yes, it is heated!

During both missions, the crew will conduct geological and microbiological exploration and test new spacesuit technologies, extravehicular activity (EVA) strategies, and other space gear. Although the Arctic more closely mimics the Martian environment, testing in the desert is much more economically and logistically feasible. By conducting both missions with the same crew in the desert and the Arctic, the program will gain information about what technology and strategies work for both environments and which ones do not translate well to the mock Martian Arctic.

These Earth-based missions are critical for advancing the knowledge of how human could explore Mars, eventually.

Marie-Elizabeth Barabas

Managing Editor, Springer Nature

I'm an interdisciplinary neuroscientist with a research background in peripheral sensory/pain research, retinal development, and stem cell research. As the Managing Editor of npj Microgravity, my role is to assist the editorial process, implement editorial policies, and promote the journal, its articles, and the community. I also attend conferences and meetings to develop a relationship with our readers, authors, and editors. If you see me at a conference, feel free to introduce yourself.