Mars is within reach!
A world with a surface area the size of the combined continents of the Earth, the Red Planet contains all the elements needed to support life. As such it is the Rosetta stone for revealing whether the phenomenon of life is something unique to the Earth, or prevalent in the universe. The exploration of Mars may also tell us whether life as we find it on Earth is the model for life elsewhere, or whether we are just a small part of a much vaster and more varied tapestry.
Moreover, as the nearest planet with all the required resources for technological civilization, Mars will be the decisive trial that will determine whether humanity can expand from its globe of origin to enjoy the open frontiers and unlimited prospects available to multi-planet spacefaring species. Offering profound enlightenment to our science, inspiration and purpose to our youth, and a potentially unbounded future for our posterity, the challenge of Mars is one that we must embrace.
Indeed, with so much at stake, Mars is a test for us. It asks us if we intend to continue to be a society of pioneers, people who dare great things to open untrodden paths for the future. It puts us to the question of whether we will be people whose deeds are celebrated in newspapers, or in museums; whether we will continue to open new possibilities for our descendants, or whether we will become less than those who took on the unknown to give everything we have to us.
Mars is the great challenge of our time.
In order to help develop key knowledge needed to prepare for human Mars exploration, and to inspire the public by making sensuous the vision of human exploration of Mars, the Mars Society initiated the Mars Analog Research Station (MARS) project. A global program of Mars exploration operations research, the MARS project includes two Mars base-like habitats located in deserts in the Canadian Arctic and the American Southwest. In these Mars-like environments, we have launched a program of extensive long-duration field exploration operations conducted in the same style and under many of the same constraints as they would on the Red Planet. By doing so, we began the process of learning how to explore on Mars.
The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) is a laboratory for learning how to live and work on another planet. It is a prototype of a habitat that will land humans on Mars and serve as their main base for months of exploration in the harsh Martian environment. Such a habitat represents a key element in current human Mars mission planning. MDRS serves as a field base to teams of six to seven crew members: geologists, astrobiologists, engineers, mechanics, physicians, human factors researchers, artists, and others, who live for weeks to months at a time in relative isolation in a Mars analog environment. Mars analogs are defined as locations on Earth where some environmental conditions, geologic features, biological attributes or combinations thereof may approximate in some specific way those thought to be encountered on Mars, either at present or earlier in that planet’s history. Studying such sites leads to new insights into the nature and evolution of Mars, the Earth, and life.