MIT researchers visit Mars on Earth

Nov 21, 2005
MIT Professor Jeffrey Hoffman tests a Hamiliton Sundstrand concept spacesuit

At 75 degrees north latitude, Devon Island lies high above the Arctic Circle, a few hundred miles from the magnetic North Pole. A true polar desert, it is also the largest uninhabited island on Earth. But the reach of MIT extends even here.

Image: MIT Professor Jeffrey Hoffman tests a Hamiliton Sundstrand concept spacesuit while at the Haughton-Mars Base on Devon Island last summer. Photo / Jessica Marquez

This past summer, a research team from MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics established a semi-permanent shelter at the NASA Haughton-Mars Base. Supported by a NASA grant on interplanetary supply chain management, the team went to Devon Island because the existing base infrastructure, combined with the remote and barren location, makes it ideal for studying logistics strategies that could be used in planning exploration strategies to the moon and Mars. The principal investigators for the project are Professors Olivier de Weck and David Simchi-Levi.

"Haughton-Mars Base provides an excellent analogy to lunar and Mars exploration," said de Weck. "This is primarily due to its remoteness, the time-varying nature of the transportation links and its thin supply line." The MIT team also included former NASA astronaut and MIT Professor Jeffrey Hoffman and seven students.

The Haughton-Mars Project is an international, interdisciplinary field research project sponsored by NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, focused on the scientific study of the Haughton Crater -- a 40-kilometer-wide geological structure formed more than 38 million years ago by the impact of a large meteor. Chosen in part for its remoteness and similarity to Mars terrain, the site also serves as an analogue or "mock" exploration base, where an array of exploration-related engineering and technology experiments are tested.

Another expedition goal was to establish an MIT presence at the Haughton base for future educational and research activities.

"The Haughton-Mars Project Devon Island base gives us a unique opportunity to conduct experimental tests of some of the ideas we've been developing for lunar and Martian exploration," Hoffman said. "We're hoping this becomes a permanent MIT facility."

The MIT team compiled a complete inventory of materials at the base, including such key items as food and fuel. It also experimented with modern logistics technologies, such as radio frequency identification, that autonomously manage and track assets, with the ultimate goal of creating a "smart exploration base" that could increase safety and save astronauts and explorers precious time.

Results from the MIT expedition are now being processed. These findings will form the basis for continued work on interplanetary logistics through this fall.

Source: MIT

Explore further: New Horizons spacecraft experiences anomaly

Related Stories

Throwable tactical camera gets commercial release

Jun 26, 2015

Unseen areas are troublesome for police and first responders: Rooms can harbor dangerous gunmen, while collapsed buildings can conceal survivors. Now Bounce Imaging, founded by an MIT alumnus, is giving officers ...

Helping robots handle uncertainty

Jun 03, 2015

Decentralized partially observable Markov decision processes are a way to model autonomous robots' behavior in circumstances where neither their communication with each other nor their judgments about the ...

Will we ever colonize Mars?

Jun 01, 2015

Mars. It's a pretty unforgiving place. On this dry, dessicated world, the average surface temperature is -55 °C (-67 °F). And at the poles, temperatures can reach as low as -153 °C (243 °F). Much of ...

Recommended for you

New Horizons spacecraft experiences anomaly

7 hours ago

The New Horizons spacecraft experienced an anomaly the afternoon of July 4 that led to a loss of communication with Earth. Communication has since been reestablished and the spacecraft is healthy.

Dwarf planet Ceres offers big surprises for scientists

7 hours ago

The closer we get to Ceres, the more perplexing the dwarf planet grows. NASA's Dawn spacecraft has found several more bright spots as well as a pyramid-like peak jutting out of the frigid world's surface.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.