Tech & Science : Calls for a Mars research station to be built in outback South Australia at Arkaroola - - PressFrom - Australia
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Tech & Science Calls for a Mars research station to be built in outback South Australia at Arkaroola

03:50  09 november  2019
03:50  09 november  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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Australia Mars Analog Research Station . Australia Mars Analogue Research Station ( MARS -Oz) is a station in Australia where the Mars Society will conduct geological exploration under constraints similar to those found on Mars .

The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) is the second simulated Mars analog habitat owned and operated by the Mars Society. The station was built near Hanksville, Utah, in the western United States in the early 2000s

a person riding on the back of a bicycle: Simulation astronauts installing a weather station in Arkaroola in outback South Australia. (Supplied: Mars Society Australia and Saber Astronautics)© Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation Simulation astronauts installing a weather station in Arkaroola in outback South Australia. (Supplied: Mars Society Australia and Saber Astronautics)

It is unlikely that humans will call Mars home anytime soon, but researchers think the arid outback could help give us a clearer understanding of how to survive on the Red Planet.

Mars Society Australia has renewed its push for a Mars research station simulation to be built in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, in outback South Australia.

The site would replicate a future Mars community, complete with a fake rocket ship, laboratories, rovers and scientists in spacesuits doing field experiments in rocky outcrops.

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Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. Flinders Ranges, South Australia . Sillers Lookout - Arkaroola 's famous 4WD 'Ridgetop Tour'. These two maps indicate Arkaroola 's location in the northern Flinders Ranges, 600 kilometres north of Adelaide in South Australia

Arkaroola is the common name for the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, a wildlife sanctuary situated on 610 square kilometres (240 square miles) of freehold and pastoral lease land in South Australia . It is located 700 kilometres (430 miles) north of the Adelaide city centre in the Northern Flinders Ranges

"It will allow us to do a wide range of activities that support the vision of human presence on Mars," the society's president, Jonathan Clarke, said.

"We can train people in field science and space operations in the area, and we can do education and outreach programs.

"We would do experiments on monitoring human performance in remote areas, test medical procedures and monitoring, and also develop and test technology like hand tools and robotics."

The society has been advocating for what it calls its Mars analogue research station for 18 years, but it now has a better reason for one to be built.

It's leveraging off the creation of Australia's new space agency, as well as US president Donald Trump’s hasty plan for America to return to the moon by 2024, and hopefully go on to Mars.

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The Arkaroola region of central South Australia provides a useful locale for Mars analog research into geology, astrobiology, and several other disciplines. MARS -OZ will provide a platform for a diverse range of Mars analogue research in Australia . The simulated base consists of two mobile

" An Australian Mars Analogue Research station ( MARS -OZ): Addendum to Initial Proposal A third has been built and will be deployed in Iceland. The MARS -OZ simulated base employs a different The Arkaroola region of central South Australia provides a useful locale for Mars analog research

"Australia has been lagging behind in the space sector for many decades," Dr Clarke said.

"The establishment of the Australian Space Agency is a gamechanger for anyone wanting to develop space technology in Australia.

"This makes it possible to look for actual funding for an (analogue research station) from commercial and government sectors."

Australia joins space race

In September, the Australian Government announced it would invest $150 million for Australian businesses and researchers to join the US's Mars exploration project.

"It is a gateway not only for lunar exploration but also asteroid missions and going on to Mars," Dr Clarke said.

"It is important we be a part of this because it is one of the big visionary projects of the 21st century."

Saber Astronautics, a company with offices in Sydney and around Colorado (US) that makes next generation mission control software, has used Arkaroola before to trial its technology.

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Getting to Outback South Australia is part of the journey with a quintessential Australian road trip. Bring your sense of adventure for camping in Outback South Australia . One of the best spots to camp in South Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary also offers powered and unpowered sites alongside the

The Mars Society internationally has pioneered a field of study known as Mars analogue research . This seeks to investigate technologies, exploration strategies and human factors MarsOz is a project which plans to construct a simulated Mars base at Arkaroola in South Australia 's Flinders Ranges.

However, the company's CEO Jason Held said the prospect of a permanent facility — equipped with pretend rocket ships, labs, communication service and living quarters — would be more useful.

"I think it's a critical component because you want to know not just what its like for people on Mars, but how you communicate with them and work with them from Earth," Mr Held said.

"Australia has got really good Mars-like geography and terrain, so that walking on the ground feels like Mars."

He suggested Australia's research stations in Antarctica could also be used to help scientists prepare for life on Mars, given the freezing climate.

"It gets people practising and learning new techniques and procedures for beyond an isolation state and how you would actually do your science at these places," Mr Held said.

Mars research stations already exist in Utah in the US and another in a polar desert on Devon Island, in the Arctic region of Canada.

They are used by international space agencies, such as the European Space Agency and NASA, as well as research institutes and private companies wanting to practice Mars work.

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The Outback of South Australia is a large expanse of northern South Australia . Arkaroola or Arkaroola Station is a very small town located in the Northern Flinders Ranges about 130 km from Leigh Creek, in South Australia .

Mars Society Australia has selected the Arkaroola region as its key focus area for Mars analogue research . The centrepiece of the program is the MARS -OZ will provide a platform for a diverse range of Mars analogue research in Australia . The simulated base consists of two mobile modules

Dr Clarke said while the idea of having one in Australia seems far fetched, it was a good money maker for the state's economy, especially as the private space sector continued to grow.

"The Utah station takes about 10 to 15 teams every year and is booked up 2 years in advance with people from all over the world." he said.

"There is a 2-year waiting list to get on, and two thirds of the applications get knocked back, so there is a huge demand and global interest in this facility."

South Australia's outback simulates life on Mars

The Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is spread across 610 square kilometres of freehold and pastoral lease land in South Australia, and is a 10-hour drive from Adelaide.

"We selected the Arkaroola region over 30 or 40 sites all over central Australia as being the one where all the ducks lined up in terms of scientific interest, access and land tenure," Dr Clarke said.

Doug Sprigg, the owner of Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, said there had been eight Mars simulations at Arkaroola over the past two decades, however the researchers worked in temporary structures rather that a permanent state of the art analogue.

He said while some groups came to test software and equipment, others had come to dig for fossils and search for microscopic life.

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Arkaroola Mars Robot Challenge. The Mars Society Australia has developed the design of a simulated Mars base, MARS -OZ, for deployment in outback Australia . MARS -OZ will provide a platform for a diverse range of Mars analogue research in Australia .

Australia Mars Analogue Research Station ( MARS -Oz) is a station in Australia where the Mars Society will conduct geological exploration under The main base is projected to be placed next to Arkaroola . These sites will help with understanding the environments that will be available upon an

Arkaroola has 100-million-year-old hot springs that appear to have evidence of extremophiles —organisms that live in extreme environments.

"This ancient life exists happily in current hot springs on the earth surface and in the mid oceanic rift zones, so developing and testing methods to proving its existence in Arkaroola may give us the methods to detect pre-existing life on the surface of Mars," Mr Sprigg said.

Support systems needed

"Arkaroola also has some strange life, like a gold-eating and concentrating bacteria which uses cyanide as a digester, as well as a uranium-eating bacteria that may help with environmentally friendly mining and clean-up of contaminated sites.

"We also have an algal bloom that loves radiation and has a self repairing gene, perhaps this gene may have use in the medical industry."

Having a permanent analogue site would help scientists and space companies work out by trial and error what services, protocols and technology they will need on Mars, if it ever happens.

In 2016 Saber Astronautics worked with Dr Clarke's team during a fake Mars mission in Arkaroola.

"We had sensors in the space suits to to measure heart rate and skin temperatures, and sensors on the robots and around the environment, so we knew everything going on locally," Mr Held said.

Saber Astronautics conducted its mission control operations from 1,200 kilometres away, in Sydney.

That is a big distance, but far short of the actual distance — Mars at its closest to Earth is 50 million kilometres away.

"People on Mars have a 20-minute time delay between Earth and Mars, so if something goes wrong they need their own systems in place, and you need supporting systems in place," Hr Held said.

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