Mars Arctic Research Station
Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada

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Haughton Crater, Devon Island as a Mars Analog Environment

For years, planetary scientists looking for Earthly environments similar to Mars for geological and biological research have worked in such places as Antarctica's Dry Valleys, Chile's Atacama Desert, Iceland's volcanic and ice fields, California's Death Valley, Washington State's Channeled Scabland, or Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park.

There is in reality no place on Earth that is truly like Mars, nor is there any one place on our planet that would quaitfy as the perfect Mars analog. If anything, this means that nothing will replace actually going to Mars. What then, is meant by a "Mars analog"?

Mars analogs can be defined as locations on Earth where some environmental conditions, geological features, biological attributes, or combinations thereof may approximate in some specific way those to be encountered on Mars, either at present or earlier in that planet's history, such that new insight into the nature and evolution of Mars may be gained from their study. But in addition to providing scientific insight into our neighbouring world, Mars analogs can serve as valuable test sites for the preparation of the future exploration of that planet.

In recent years, a team of scientists led by MARS project scientist Dr. Pascal Lee of NASA Ames Research Center has identified a new Mars analog site of high promise: the 20 km-diameter Haughton Meteorite Impact Crater and its surroundings on Devon Island, in the Canadian High Arctic. Haughton is a site of much interest because it appears to present not just one or a few potential Mars analog features, but an astonishing variety of these.

Devon Island, Queen Elizabeth Islands, Canada

Haughton Crater
(Click on the image for a larger picture)

Haughton Crater on Devon Island
(Click on the image for a larger picture)

Some of the possible parallels investigated by this NASA-supported effort, referred to by its participants as the Haughton-Mars Project, are listed below:

NASA's study of this Mars analog wonderland in the cold, remote and barren reaches of Devon Island provides a unique opportunity to study how humans will explore Mars. The Haughton-Mars Project has already included in its two first field seasons experiments geared towards developing the new technologies, operational procedures, and experience in human factors that will help realize or optimize the exploration of Mars by humans. Field communication devices, "wearable" information sharing systems, a coolant-free permafrost drill, a ground-penetrating radar, robotic vehicles (developed by Carnegie Mellon University), a field spectrometer, stereo cameras, a field emergency medical kit (developed by NASA Kennedy Space Center), and EVA requirements and procedures are among the human Mars exploration items that have begun to be studied.

Such experiments will be continued on Devon Island during the 1999 field season of the Haughton-Mars Project, which will take NASA scientists back to Devon Island from 21 June to 31 July, 1999. The Mars Society will participate in this expedition to select the site where the MARS will be set up and begin assembly of the first elements. A ground array of solar panels may be among the first elements installed.

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