Researchers go to Utah to experience another planet: Mars

  • In the desert outside of Hanksville, Utah, lies the Mars Desert Research Center. The Mars Society, a nonprofit group advocating human exploration of the red planet, operates this small facility. The MDRS serves as a base for scientists who come for three-week stints to explore the possibility and challenges of sending a manned mission to Mars.

    Mars Society
  • A vintage map of Mars hangs on the wall inside the MDRS. The Mars Society chose the Utah location for environmental conditions, geologic features and biological attributes that are similar to those found currently, or previously, on Mars.

    Jim Urquhart / Reuters
  • Hans Van ‘t Woud, a mapping researcher and the health and safety officer of one MDRS research crew, checks on plants grown at the facility in March. Crews live together in a small communication base with limited amounts of electricity, food, oxygen and water. Everything needed to survive must be produced, repaired and replaced on site.

    Jim Urquhart / Reuters
  • From left, crew member Hans Van ‘t Woud, geologist Csilla Orgel, and geologist and crew commander Melissa Battler plan an excursion to collect geologic samples.

    Jim Urquhart / Reuters
  • Melissa Battler removes her simulated spacesuit after a trek into the Utah desert to collect geologic samples. All researchers exploring the terrain outside the MDRS wear spacesuits and carry air tanks.

    Jim Urquhart / Reuters
  • Crew members on a desert expedition in December 2012.

    Mars Society
  • Researchers venture out in their spacesuits to collect geologic samples. “It is one thing to walk around a factory test area in a new spacesuit prototype and show that a wearer can pick up a wrench—it is entirely another to subject that same suit to two months of real field work,” declares the MDRS website.

    Jim Urquhart / Reuters
  • Geologist Csilla Orgel collects rock samples in the desert.

    Jim Urquhart / Reuters
  • Geologist Csilla Orgel makes her way back to the Mars Desert Research Station after a field excursion.

    Jim Urquhart / Reuters
  • Volker Maiwald, executive officer and habitat engineer of Crew 125, walks among the rock formations while collecting geologic samples.

    Jim Urquhart / Reuters
 

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In March, photographer and science enthusiast Jim Urquhart ventured into the Utah desert to join a team of researchers at the Mars Desert Research Station. He came back with a collection of surreal images both extra-terrestrial and intriguing.