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Learn More About Mars Analogs:

Why Study Analogs? See Chris McKay's reasons.

photo of Onxy river in Antarctica

Antarctica
Field sites in the Antarctic Dry Valleys serve as useful (and relatively nearby) analogs to the surface of Mars for several reasons. The environmental similarities include low mean temperatures, strong and desiccating winds, lack of rain, sparse snowfall, sublimation, diurnal freeze-thaw cycles, low humidity, high solar radiation, and the presence of salts in the soils. A team of planetary scientists have recently reexamined earlier work on cold Antarctic desert soils to better understand the Martian near-surface environment and weathering processes.
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photo of rover in Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert is the most arid region on Earth. It may also be the most lifeless. In the interior of the desert, rain is measured in millimeters per decade and solar radiation is intense because of the high altitude. But there is life where the desert meets coastal mountains. Organisms have been discovered that survive on sunlight and fog. Field investigation over three years will use a rover to make long transects in the Atacama. The rover will support panoramic imagers, microscopic imagers, spectrometers, as well as mechanisms for shallow subsurface access. >>Read More and News Release

Licancabur photo The Licancabur volcano (6,014 m) located at the boundary of Chile and Bolivia hosts a lake that is amongst the highest and the least explored lakes on Earth. The lake environment combines low-oxygen, low atmospheric pressure, and high-UV radiation. Sediments are formed in volcanic material. It is ice-covered most of the year, but the bottom water temperature remains above freezing. These conditions make Licancabur a unique analog to ancient Martian lakes and provides astrobiologists a way to explore the past habitability and biological potential of Mars.
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landscape photo of arkaroola

Australian Outback
A wide range of research projects were carried out within an approximately two hundred kilometer radius of Arkaroola in the Australian Outback, another Mars-like location here on Earth. The goal of the expeditions is to develop strategies and technologies that will support a successful future human Mars mission. This expedition will culminate in the selection of the precise site in the Arkaroola area for the construction of MARS-OZ, one of the four Mars Analog Research Stations planned worldwide. It will also lay the groundwork for future expeditions and research by Mars Society Australia in the Arkaroola region.
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habitat and surrounding terrain

High Desert of Utah
At the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), teams of hard working volunteers, working in full simulation mode in a painted desert located in the Morrison Formation of the Jurassic Period (where many dinosyaur fossils are found), continue to explore the surrounding terrain, cataloging more waypoints, and analyzing the geology and biology of this fascinating and remarkably Mars-like region.
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landscape at rio tinto spain

Rio Tinto, Spain
Studying the organisms of the Rio Tinto, a highly acitic, iron-rich river, is teaching astrobiologists about the diversity of life that can survive such extreme conditions. The river is also serving as an experimental site for remote drilling, sample handling, and instrumentation to help astrobiologists prepare for remote surveys of Mars.
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Photo of underwater diver next to Aquarius Aquarius, Underwater Habitat
If we go to Mars,the first thing we’re going to do is set up camp. It’s like going camping; you’ve got to set up your tent, you’ve got to find where the water supply is, you want to see what natural resources are available. It’s the same thing with the first couple of dives on a NEEMO mission. You learn the topography of the reef, you take measurements with your compass, you take pictures, you write on your slate, and you communicate that information back to the [mission control center in Houston].
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Haughton-Mars Project (HMP)
The Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) is an international interdisciplinary field research project centered on the scientific study of the Haughton impact structure and surrounding terrain, Devon Island, High Arctic, viewed as a terrestrial analog for Mars. The HMP is managed jointly by the Mars Institute and by the SETI Institute. HMP-2006 is the 10th field season of the HMP.
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photo of aerial view of Devon Island Canadian Arctic
Not only does Devon island exhibit geological and glacial features which resemble features found on Mars, its daytime temperatures are similar to those of a "summer" day on Mars, and it is largely snow and ice free in summer - some the Antarctic, another popular Mars analogue, cannot offer so easily.
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engineer working in lab with rover similar to Opportunity Laboratory in California
Rover engineers in JPL's In-Situ Instrument Lab check how a test rover moves in material chosen to simulate some difficult Mars driving conditions. The rover team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has cooked up recipes combining various sandy and powdery materials for the best simulation on Earth of the dune where Opportunity dug itself in to wheel-hub depth.
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microbial mat found in Baja California Baja California
Understanding microbial communities can give clues to how life shaped the Earth billions of years ago -- and help find signs of life on distant planets.NAI researchers study the microbes in the salt evaporation ponds of a salt company in Baja California . Here, the microbes grow in dense layers. When sliced through, the mat shows differently hued stripes descending for several inches.
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NASA Official: Mark León
Last Updated: May 2005
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