Research from desert simulations aimed at easing life on an eventual Red Planet trip.
Courtesy of Perry Edmundson/Expedition Delta
Granted, this "Mars" was the Utah desert, but spending two weeks on a simulated mission to the Red Planet gave him a taste of what it would be like to fulfill his dream. And the freeze-dried flavor didn't dampen his enthusiasm.
Mr. Cunio moved into the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), just outside Hanksville, Utah, to test equipment being developed by the Space Logistics Project and other partners at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. (http://spacelogistics.mit.edu).
He was part of an eight-person international crew including engineers, a biologist, and a GPS expert all doing their own research. For two weeks, they traded earthly conveniences for scientific progress. They imposed a delay of roughly 20 minutes on e-mails. When they ventured outside their cylindrical two-level habitat, they had to wait in an airlock and don bulky simulated spacesuits – complete with boots, ski gloves, and bulbous helmets.
The Mars Society has been running mock missions since 2002 to promote – and prepare for – sending humans to a frontier that only telescopes and rovers have explored so far. "It's kind of a dress rehearsal," says Robert Zubrin, president and founder of the nonprofit society based in Lakewood, Colo. "We're looking to see what would work on Mars and what wouldn't – what skill mix, what character mix, what set of tools...." The society also operates a research station in Canada's Devon Island in the Arctic.