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Greenhouse For A Red Planet

Keith Cowing and Marc Boucher stand in front of the greenhouse at the Second Astrobiology Science Conference. SpaceRef Image
Washington - Apr 21, 2002
Discovery channel partner SpaceRef Interactive has donated an experimental greenhouse to the SETI Institute's Center for the Study of Life in the Universe. The donation will support research activities on Devon Island, Nunavut, in the Canadian high Arctic, conducted under the auspices of the NASA Haughton-Mars Project that is developing research concepts for the human exploration of Mars.

Named after and dedicated to Sir Arthur C. Clarke, originator of communications satellites, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey and almost 100 other books, the "Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse" will support research activities that increase our understanding of life in the universe and help pave the way for the human exploration of Mars. "Look out, Mars - here we come!" said Clarke, about the greenhouse.

The NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) is an international, interdisciplinary planetary-analog field research project led by Dr. Pascal Lee, planetary scientist, of the SETI Institute. Pending acquisition of all necessary resources, the Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse will be deployed and equipped in two stages, the first in Summer 2002, the second in Summer 2003.

The 2002 field season will be dedicated to installation and monitoring of the environmental characteristics of the greenhouse. Research operations involving selected plant growth would begin in 2003.

The assembled greenhouse is 24 feet long, 12 feet wide, and has a maximum height of 10 feet along its center spine. The greenhouse will undergo test assembly at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA, and is displayed at the Second Astrobiology Science Conference 7-11 April, 2002.

Installation on Devon Island is expected to occur in July, 2002 at the earliest.

The Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse is being donated by SpaceRef to the SETI Institute so as to allow the growth and harvesting of selected plants in support of basic and applied research in the fields of astrobiology, space biology, life support systems studies, information technologies, and human factors relating to the human exploration of Mars.

"It is one thing to talk about doing complex technical operations in a remote, potentially hazardous location. It is another thing altogether to actually go there and try to make it work" said Marc Boucher, SpaceRef CEO and HMP-2000 field season veteran.

The Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse initiates an experimental testbed that supports field research with the goal of understanding the operational challenges faced by future astronauts on the surface of Mars.

"We hope that our contribution will lead - indeed stimulate - the deployment of high fidelity simulations of potential Mars greenhouses in the years to come" said SpaceRef President Keith Cowing.

Ultimately, this greenhouse, and the scientific research that is conducted within, is intended to further the prospect of sending humans to Mars.

"The Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse will help us plan the human exploration of Mars and teach us more about the possibilities and requirements of life in extreme environments on Earth, Mars and beyond" said Lee.

The NASA HMP Principal Investigator is Dr. Pascal Lee, a planetary scientist with the Center for the Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute. Lee is based at NASA Ames Research Center. SpaceRef's Greenhouse Project Manager is Keith Cowing, President of SpaceRef Interactive, Inc., and former NASA space biologist and payload integration manager. Once deployed, research in the greenhouse will be overseen by a science team under the auspices of the NASA HMP.

Related Links
Greenhouse at SpaceRef
The NASA Haughton-Mars Project
SETI Institute
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Third Mars Simulation Base Team Arrives At Desert Station
Hanksville - Mar 13, 2002
The third crew rotation of the Mars Desert Research Station has begun. The rotation, which started March 10, will run through March 24. During this time, the crew will continue the MDRS's program of sustained field exploration of the Utah desert while operating under many of the same constraints that a human crew would in an expedition to Mars. The purpose of this work is to learn how to explore on the Red Planet.

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