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Brown Scientists Help NASA With Human Exploration Of Mars

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Geoscientists from Brown University are part of a team at NASA looking for good places for humans to explore on the planet Mars, the most Earth-like...

Geoscientists from Brown University are part of a team at NASA looking for good places for humans to explore on the planet Mars, the most Earth-like planet in the solar system.  

Brown University professor James Head and some of his colleagues have been studying a region on the Red Planet that could unlock answers about the evolution of both Mars and Earth and provide the right resources for human survival with its thick deposits of glacial ice.

“So we know where the resources are for water,” said Head, “and water, of course, is essential to grow crops, to drink. So that's the kind of thing we're exploring when we're looking for landing sites for humans on the surface of Mars.” Professor James Head said scientists can learn many aspects of Mars right here on Earth by studying in Antarctica, which is a lot like Mars in that it is very cold and very dry. Doing field research in Antarctica gives scientists an understanding of how to do science and survive in an extreme environment.

Humans could build shelter from debris covering the glaciers. They’d have to learn to produce oxygen, “and that can be done obviously, particularly if you have water,” said Head, who started out his career at NASA training astronauts to go to the moon. 

It may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but Head thinks it’s smart for humans to learn how to live on planets other than Earth.

“That is to say, we use the resources of the Earth to live,” said Head. “We really need to learn to do that from Mars as well so ultimately the human species can survive if a species-terminating event happens here on the Earth.”

Head calls it that a “good survival strategy to learn what other planets have to offer.

“And just like with the early settlers, when things got not so good in Europe for a variety of reasons, they sought out new worlds and explored them and then populated them,” said Head.

Head noted we are far from landing humans on Mars. But NASA is taking steps to identify potential landing sites and develop missions for unmanned spacecrafts and rovers, which could pave the way for human exploration.

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Brown Scientists Help NASA With Human Exploration Of Mars
Brown Scientists Help NASA With Human Exploration Of Mars
Professor James Head said scientists can learn many aspects of Mars right here on Earth by studying in Antarctica, which is a lot like Mars in that it is very cold and very dry. Doing field research in Antarctica gives scientists an understanding of how to do science and survive in an extreme environment.
Professor James Head said scientists can learn many aspects of Mars right here on Earth by studying in Antarctica, which is a lot like Mars in that it is very cold and very dry. Doing field research in Antarctica gives scientists an understanding of how to do science and survive in an extreme environment.