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Mars on Earth
Simulation tests in remote desert of Oman
W mars
In this Feb. 7 photo, two scientists test space suits and a geo-radar for use in a future Mars mission in the Dhofar desert of southern Oman. The desolate desert in southern Oman resembles Mars so much that more than 200 scientists from 25 nations organized by the Austrian Space Forum are using it for the next four weeks to field-test technology for a manned mission to Mars. - photo by Associated Press
DHOFAR DESERT, Oman — Two scientists in spacesuits, stark white against the auburn terrain of desolate plains and dunes, test a geo-radar built to map Mars by dragging the flat box across the rocky sand.When the geo-radar stops working, the two walk back to their all-terrain vehicles and radio colleagues at their nearby base camp for guidance. They can't turn to their mission command, far off in the Alps, because communications from there are delayed 10 minutes.But this isn't the red planet — it's the Arabian Peninsula.The desolate desert in southern Oman, near the borders of Yemen and Saudi Arabia, resembles Mars so much that more than 200 scientists from 25 nations chose it as their location for the next four weeks, to field-test technology for a manned mission to Mars.Public and private ventures are racing toward Mars — both former President Barack Obama and SpaceX founder Elon Musk declared humans would walk on the red planet in a few decades.New challengers like China are joining the United States and Russia in space with an ambitious, if vague, Mars program. Aerospace corporations like Blue Origin have published schematics of future bases, ships and suits.The successful launch of SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket this week "puts us in a completely different realm of what we can put into deep space, what we can send to Mars," said analog astronaut Kartik Kumar.The next step to Mars, he says, is to tackle non-engineering problems like medical emergency responses and isolation."These are things I think can't be underestimated."
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