I really wanted to write about “Nazis at the Center of the Earth” which is a new movie set in Antarctica, but this is supposed to be a science blog. But you can read the review for yourself here. Sounds pretty amazing, actually.
Anyway, today’s posting is about the European Space Agency mission that proposes to spend 8 months at the Concordia Research Station, high on a plateau of Antarctica. The fourteen members are there to push the limits of human endurance in the most inhospitable climate on earth. Why? They want to simulate the harrowing conditions of a manned mission to Mars. Crews at Concordia station may suffer chronic hypobaric hypoxia, stress secondary to confinement and isolation, or circadian rhythm and sleep disruption.
Dr. Alexander Kumar, an A&E physician from Oxford in England says:
“We’re away from friends, family, McDonald’s Happy Meals and life as you know it. It really is like living life on Planet Concordia. We suffer from low oxygen levels as well as isolation. We’re about to enter into the harshest winter the world has to offer. It’s an Antarctic winter and temperatures will drop below minus 80C – not that it makes that much difference below minus 20C for me. On top of that, we have four months of complete darkness.”
How close would this be to what it’s really like on Mars? We should be able to find out five facts about the red planet:
1. Mars has no magnetic field, so cannot sustain a magnetosphere, which is the protective layer that shields the earth from solar wind, cosmic radiation, and asteroid impacts.
2. Mars has very little atmosphere, and it mostly consists of CO2 with small amounts of nitrogen argon, and oxygen. Without an atmosphere the temperatures vary wildly from -93 degrees C at the poles in winter to -3 degrees C in the lower latitude summer.
4. Mars has seasons, just like earth, and their axial tilt is very similar.
5. Mars has clouds made of mostly water ice but also some frozen carbon dioxide