Army and NASA practice for Mars missions

Army and NASA practice for Mars missions

By Susan M. Menke

GCN Staff


JULY 31'NASA and Army personnel and members of the Mars Society are holding a dress rehearsal this summer on Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic to prepare for future exploration of Mars.

The rotating Haughton-Mars Project crew members live in a controlled habitat and go outside wearing NASA's prototype Mars suits to simulate working in the nearly airless environment of the red planet. They are connected via satellite, and three webcams show their activities at www.Mars.TV.

The outdoor webcam and transmitter draw power from a photovoltaic array on an all-terrain vehicle. Fresh images upload every two minutes to a Web server. The webcams use the PlanetNet wireless technology developed by NASA and the Canadian Space Agency because Mars lacks an ionosphere for ordinary radio communications. See polylab.sfu.ca/spacesystems/planetnet for more information.

Army robotics expert Lt. Col John Blitch recently joined the crew with three tanklike robots nicknamed Stumpy, Jan and Titan, possible ancestors of future Mars rovers. Crew members decided it is a waste of time to send robots to places humans can reach, so tethered and wireless robots probably will be used as tools for imaging small spaces and the undersides of astronauts' vehicles for maintenance.

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