A Martian Landscape on Earth

Emily Wiley
July 02, 2007

"Mars is within reach!" according to Irene Schneider and fellow members of the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) Crew 61. For two weeks in April, the international and interdisciplinary crew of six individuals occupied a prototype Mars habitat in the Utah desert. Their mission: "Emergency Preparedness." Core activities on the "Martian" landscape included emergency protocols such as radiation evacuation and radiation poisoning prevention—likely challenges facing human habitation on the Red Planet.

Schneider, who has a nuclear physics background and a Masters of Geosciences from Penn State, was selected for the expedition for her expertise in high energy radiation originating from Galactic Cosmic Rays. It's estimated that the average American receives 360 millirems (thousandths of a rem) in background radiation per year. On Mars, you would get about a hundred times more (~34 rems). "Despite the fact that the effects of free space radiation on humans are currently not well understood, such a dose would likely exceed the present lifetime radiation dose allowed for astronauts by NASA," says Schneider.

Crew 61, sponsored by NASA and The Mars Society, is part of the larger Mars Analog Research Station (MARS) project which includes four bases in the Canadian Arctic, the American Southwest, the Australian Outback, and Iceland. Crew members specialize in engineering, geology, geosciences, and biology.

Join Schneider for a narration of the two-week immersive simulation of living and working on Mars with photos from the expedition:

Irene Schneider, M.S., is a graduate of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and is a research scholar in James Kastings'group.
She can be reached at sschneid@geos.psu.edu.

Last Updated July 02, 2007