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Mars at Opposition IV
You can find Mars in many places.
In the night sky right now, it’s in the east as night falls and arcs high across the south later on. It shines like a brilliant orange star all night long.
But you can also find Mars here on Earth — or at least some reasonable facsimiles, known as analogs. Scientists have found Mars-like conditions in the Arctic and Antarctic, in the mountains of Chile and Hawaii, in a riverbed in Spain, on the glaciers of Iceland, and in several other locations.
Mars is extremely cold and dry. You can’t get all of those conditions on any one spot on Earth. But you can get some of them at different spots.
The closest Mars analog is Antarctica. It’s as cold as much of Mars, and its interior is one of the driest deserts on Earth. Psychologists have studied how people who spend the winter in bases there react to living in a Mars-like environment.
Other Mars analogs have been used to check out robotic rovers and their instruments. And still others are used to evaluate spacesuits, habitats, and other gear for human explorers.
One Mars-analog expedition has been scheduled for this week — COVID-19 permitting. Known as AMADEE, it’ll take place in a crater in the desert of Israel. It’s sponsored by the Austrian Space Forum, which has organized a dozen Mars campaigns. “Astronauts” in spacesuits will conduct experiments like those real astronauts might do on Mars itself — working on Mars without leaving Earth.
Script by Damond Benningfield