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Science And Nature

Per month on ‘Mars’: A Kinder, Gentler Mars

The sun is just visible through clouds above a dry Arctic base camp.

Sunlight tries to break through low-lying fog and cloud cover because the Haughton-Mars Project base drops to freezing temperatures.(Image credit: Thanks to Rod Pyle)

We’ve had a shift in weather and another small taste of human stressors at the Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) on Devon Island in the Arctic.

Whenever we arrived here, it had been sunny with temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s, and we got used compared to that. “Look at that scenery!” among us would say. “How Mars-like!” another would add, also it was. Nonetheless it was Mars-like in the comfort of a one-Earth-gravity environment, with a breathable atmosphere and ambient temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).

Today we awoke from what may be considered more typically Martian weather. Hard winds forever, and cold. It had been about 35 F (1.6 C) with 30 mph (48 km/h) winds; with wind chill, that’s well below freezing.

Related: Mars: All you need to know concerning the Red Planet

A picture of author Rod Pyle

Rod Pyle is really a space historian and author who has generated and offered executive leadership and innovation training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Rod has received endorsements and recognition from the outgoingDeputy Director of NASA, Johnson Space Center’s Chief Knowledge Officer for his work.

Actually, there are many people in Minnesota along with other locales more civilized than this who decry me as a whiner, and I don’t disagree, but to the SoCal city slicker, it’s frigid here. Add the constant, fine windblown grit coming off the ground of Von Braun Planitia (the broad, silty valley floor that stretches from the bottom of the bluff which the Haughton-Mars Project base is situated), and the broadly open terrain that will not impede wind at all, and you also have a conspiracy of gritty cold.

Von Braun Planitia, the grit-filled, windswept plain next to the Haughton-Mars Project base.

Von Braun Planitia, the grit-filled, windswept plain close to the Haughton-Mars Project base. (Image credit: Thanks to Rod Pyle)

All of this is really a reminder, despite these temporary conditions, of how well adapted to Earth most of us are. We have been children of the planet; we evolved beneath the tyranny of 1 gravity sufficient reason for the pleasure of 14 pounds per square inch breathable atmosphere. That is the environment that we were bred. It’s unique in the solar system, therefore far, from what we’ve observed, possibly unique inside our region of the galaxy. So any discomfort we might be feeling here, while instructive, is absolute child’s play when compared to harsh reality of other planets.

Men in coats and winter hats play cards inside an Arctic base camp structure.

The crew of the Haughton-Mars Project play cards at base camp. (Image credit: Thanks to Rod Pyle)

It had been not that way back when that the solar system was a kinder, gentler place. I’m old enough to keep in mind a period before Mariner 4 sailed past Mars in 1965; our perception of another terrestrial planets, while evolving, was still blissfully naive. The notions of astronomers like Percival Lowell had struggled to survive in to the second 1 / 2 of the 20th century, however the prevailing notion of Mars as a chillier, bleaker twin for Earth, and Venus as a tropical doppelganger for the planet, died hard. Telescopic and radar observations were chipping away at the “sister planets” idea, but science fiction authors and filmmakers could still push the idea, without an excessive amount of stress, that people would 1 day be travelling Mars in polar garb having an oxygen bottle to augment our breathing “Very little unique of climbing Mount Everest,” as some armchair scientists opined.

Oh, how wrong we were.

Mariner 4 flew by Mars in July, 1965, and revealed a nearly airless, crater-strewn planet.

Mariner 4 flew by Mars in July, 1965, and revealed a nearly airless, crater-strewn planet. (Image credit: NASA)

When Mariner 4 sped past Mars on July 15, 1965, the Martian empire of Ray Bradbury’s fever dreams was finally smashed to red dust. By enough time the info were evaluated, Mars was revealed with an atmosphere about 1/100 the density of Earth’s, also it was so CO2 rich concerning be unbreathable regardless. By enough time subsequent Mariners has reconnoitered the Red Planet, and the twin Viking landers had completed their first months of service at Chryse Planitia and Utopia Planitia, we begun to understand that the top was bathed in killing radiation and that the soil was likely laced with deadly peroxides. The romantic notion that people had a nearby, near-twin world which could provide us another home receded into interplanetary distance.

Cut to 2022. We’ve now had more than twelve missions to Mars, now have our sixth rover exploring the top (including China’s Zhurong), and receive continuous reports of surface weather and conditions surrounding the earth. We realize how hostile Mars would be to human life (and do not even get me started on Venus!), and what it could try survive there.


While places just like the Haughton-Mars Project usually do not perfectly model the soil chemistry, intense radiation, lower gravity, or thin atmosphere of Mars, there’s still great value in the task done here. The geology of the spot strongly resembles that of Mars, as does the terrain that hosts it.

In accordance with Mars Institute planetary scientist and HMP creator Pascal Lee, these may indicate a cold and icy climate history for Mars a concept somewhat at odds with current thinking. Ways of traversing the Martian surface, using spacesuits and robots, collecting samples, doing basic analyses on site, along with other experiments are conducted. Increasingly, aerial exploration methods such as for example NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter are increasingly being evaluated with promising results. The more it is possible to learn on the planet, the less you will need to learn on Mars, that will save effort, money, and perhaps lives.

As Michael Hecht, the main Investigator on the MOXIE ISRU experiment that’s aboard the Perseverance Mars rover once thought to me, “Many technology demonstrations are doomed to achieve success on the planet,” and by extension to fail in space. Testing precisely what could be tested on the planet, in a location like Devon Island, will smooth the journey as it pertains.

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Rod Pyle

Rod Pyle can be an author, journalist, television producer and editor in chief ofAd Astramagazine for the National Space Society. He’s got written 18 books on space history, exploration and development, including”Space 2.0,””First on the Moon” and”Innovation the NASA Way.”He’s got written for NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech, WIRED, Popular Science,, Live Science, the planet Economic Forum and the Library of Congress. Rod co-authored the “Apollo Leadership Experience”for NASA’s Johnson Space Center and contains produced, directed and written for THE ANNALS Channel, Discovery Networks and Disney.

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