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A Real Mars Research Mission on Earth
MDRS crews take in the Utah desert Cramped quarters, stuffy space suits, long working hours and hard research are what 24 intrepid explorers expect in the high deserts of Utah.

Image Left: Mars Mission simulation in the Utah Desert. Credit: Mars Society.

From late Nov. 2006 through Jan. 2007, crewmembers will conduct four two-week training and research expeditions at the Mars Desert Research Station as part of NASA's Spaceward Bound project.

Who are these hardy souls? The four crews are made up of a commander and a mixed group of graduate students, undergraduates, recent graduates and a middle school teacher from around the globe. Crewmembers come from the United States a well as Canada, Greece, Puerto Rico and Switzerland.

Mars mission in the utah desert As with any research mission, a significant portion of the work is done before the expedition. Each crew is responsible for developing their research assignments and determining what equipment is necessary during their mission. During their 12 to 15 hour days, the crews will conduct research in geology, microbiology and crewmember physiology, as well as field-testing of new EVA hardware, rigging data loggers, and performing work-study task and procedure analysis.

Image Right: Crewmembers prepare to exit the Mars habitat's airlock. Credit: Mars Society

Why would they want to go through such an ordeal? For the science! Also, for a chance to do what people have dreamed about for centuries, exploring Mars in person. Well, its not the real thing but it is the closest you can get to actually being there, for now.

The Mars Desert Research Station. Why is NASA involved? Humans are curious creatures always seeking out the unknown and the moon and Mars are close but so far away. These types of activities help NASA understand what is needed for a human moon or Mars missions.

Image Left: The Mars Desert Research Station. Credit: Mars Society.

The Spaceward Bound project, in partnership with The Mars Society and funded by the NASA Exploration Mission Directorate, focuses on helping train the next generation of space explorers. The project does this by having students and teachers participate in the exploration of scientifically interesting but remote and extreme environments on Earth since they have many of the similar conditions that will be encountered on real missions.

If you would like to follow the current mission or sign up for future missions, visit the Spaceward Bound Web site.

Jonas Dino NASA Ames Resaerch Center