The Closest Thing to Mars on Earth

Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
June 6 2013 7:30 AM

The Closest Thing to Mars on Earth

Advertisement

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a new travel blog. Like us on FacebookTumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura. Below is an excerpt from the forthcoming Atlas Obscura book.

Approximately 23 million years old, the Haughton Crater on Devon Island in Nunavut is one of the world's northernmost impact craters, and about the closest thing to Mars on Earth. For NASA, and anyone interested in a mission to Mars, this crater is the starting place for what one day may be the first human voyage to a neighboring planet.

The crater itself wasn't found until the 1950's when it was spotted in aerial photographs. Named after Reverend Samuel Haughton, a British naturalist who wrote the first geological account of the Arctic Archipelago, the crater lies in what is called the "frost rubble zone," a type of polar desert environment. It is the only impact crater known to exist in such an environment, and despite its age, has undergone little erosion due to the lack of liquid water and vegetation in the area.

These factors, along with the crater's geology, make the freezing, desert-like landscape perhaps the closest approximation to the Martian environment that can be found on Earth. In 1997 the location became the base of the Haughton-Mars Project, where practice has begun for a future Mars mission. Among the research projects located there is FMARS or the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station. Here a crew of six, dressed in full spacesuits, simulate various missions and emergency scenarios. These psuedo-nauts experiment with "Low Level Laser Light Therapy" as a way to keep future Mars explorers limber during long exposure to the cold, and simulated emergencies such as depressurization, fires, and toxic chemical leaks.

Researchers inhabit the crater only during the summer months, as winters at this latitude are too cold and sunless, for even the likes of the FMARS crew.

More photos of the Haughton Impact Crater can be seen on Atlas Obscura

Martian landscapes here on Earth:


TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The First Case of Ebola in America Has Been Diagnosed in Dallas

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Mad About Modi


Why the controversial Indian prime minister drew 19,000 cheering fans to Madison Square Garden.


Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Don’t Panic! The U.S. Already Stops Ebola and Similar Diseases From Spreading. Here’s How.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 6:59 PM The Democrats’ War at Home Can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 4:45 PM Steven Soderbergh Is Doing Some Next-Level Work on The Knick
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 6:44 PM Ebola Was Already Here How the United States contains deadly hemorrhagic fevers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.