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Saturday, 25 December, 1999, 23:39 GMT
Destination Mars on Earth

Arctic A simulated Mars base is to be built in the inhospitable Arctic

By Lee Carter in Toronto

Recent setbacks in Nasa's exploration of the Red Planet have failed to dim the enthusiasm of a group of scientists who plan to build the world's first simulated Mars base.

In the summer of 2000, the Mars Society, a group of scientists, engineers and astronauts, will open its Mars Arctic research station in the Canadian high Arctic.

Project members believe that one day people will be going to Mars.

Although not officially a part of Nasa's mandate, the Mars project is dominated by Nasa scientists, astronauts and North American academics.

One of the group's members is University of Toronto geologist Darlene Lim, who says it would take 11 months for a team of astronauts to travel to Mars.

"We'd like to see in the future people actually stay there for extended periods of time.

"Mars has the potential to yield water to sustain us on our own, independent of having to cart things back and forth between the Earth and Mars, which you couldn't do potentially on the Moon."

Members of the project hope that future habitants on the planet will be able to harness the wind, water deposits and soil to become self-sufficient.

Initial experiments will begin in June when the simulated Mars base opens on Devon Island.

The base will actually be built inside a real crater and the daytime temperature of -23 degrees Celsius is like a nice summer's day on Mars.

One could think of many reasons for considering a human base on Mars - such as over-population on Earth - but Darlene Lim is mainly motivated by the thrill of exploration.

"We haven't really seen this sort of exploration in our lifetime.

"But when the New World was being colonised people were away from their families for four years at a time, and sustaining themselves in extremely difficult situations. So the human spirit, the human being can do it."

Lim admits that the recent loss of both the Mars Polar Lander and Mars Climate Orbiter may have affected favourable public opinion, which is what the project needs most if the dream of seeing astronauts on the Red Planet is ever to be realised.

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See also:
12 Feb 99 |  Sci/Tech
Making Mars liveable
24 Sep 99 |  Sci/Tech
Human error blamed for Orbiter loss
27 Aug 99 |  Sci/Tech
Life on Mars - new claims

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