Scientists will simulate Mars mission in Chile’s Atacama Desert

The Moon-Mars center will be based in the Chajnantor plains near San Pedro de Atacama, a place with conditions closely simulating those on the red planet.


A team of international scientist plan to simulate a colony on mars in Chile’s Atacama Desert.


The researchers  will build a base in the world’s driest desert, complete with mobile rocket launch pads, planetariums and greenhouses as if the site were on the planet Mars, Chilean daily newspaper El Mercurio reported.


Called the Moon-Mars center, the scientific and touristic complex will have its home in the Chajnantor plains, about 55 kilometers east of the town of San Pedro de Atacama. The location was chosen because it is one of the few places on earth with conditions that closely resemble those on Mars, including extreme solar radiation, high temperatures, an arid climate and strong winds.


Next year, the team will build the first laboratories using the fuselages of a Hercules aircraft and study microorganisms that have survived at least 26,000 years in volcanoes, salt beds and nearby lakes, including Licancabur and Ascotan, Carmen Gloria Jimenez, a University of Antofagasta professor and one of the Chilean coordinators of the project, told El Mercurio.


She noted that Mars simulations have also been carried out in Utah and on Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic in the past.


Meanwhile, Fernando Órdenes from the Chilean Space Agency, told El Mercurio ”The idea is to start working on the platforms in 2011, and do activities related to education, scientific research and transfer of geospatial technology for agriculture and viticulture.”


NASA, the Mars Society, the SETI institute, the Chinese space agency and more than 40 companies that provide services to the U.S. research and space program are taking part in the project.


The European Southern Observatory (ESO), which operates three observatories in Chile at La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor, along with international partners, is already building the Atacama Large millimeter/sub millimeter Array (ALMA), a billion-dollar project expected to provide insight on star birth during the early universe and detailed imaging of local star and planet formations.