While NASA works to send a manned mission to Mars by the 2030s, a group of Western University students beat them there–in a manner of speaking.
Western has launched its own mission control facility, teaming up students and researchers from campuses across the country to direct a rover to explore and take samples from a Mars-like landscape.
The land is actually an area of Utah, thought to have a similar surface structure to that of Mars.
The simulation, part of CanMars 2016, aims to take what we know about Mars and put it in a context to help scientists better direct future research on the red planet itself.
This step, the Mars Sample Return Analogue Mission, is the second phase of the “high-fidelity” project that started one year ago.
“Rovers and landers can only carry a limited set of instruments and there are many things yet to be learned about Mars – like whether or not life was ever present – that can only be determined using instruments that are found in laboratories on Earth,” an announcement from Western University said. “The next major step in the exploration of Mars is the return of samples from the Martian surface back to Earth.”
By the end of the project, researchers hope to have a better sense of operational requirements for instruments, support equipment and other contingencies to aid unsimulated Mars projects.
The simulation runs until Nov. 18. A public event night is scheduled for Thursday, November 10 from 7 to 9 p.m. in Western’s Physics and Astronomy Building Atrium, giving visitors the opportunity to tour mission control and take a look at various instrumentation being used in the simulation. There will also be an expert panel discussion and a number of youth outreach activities.