Preparing earthlings for Mars

BYU students care for Mars Desert Research Station

Brigham Young University students under the direction of physics professor David D. Allred have been asked by the Mars Society to maintain its Mars Desert Research Station. The cramped, two-story habitat in the desert of Southern Utah is part of an effort to prepare humans for exploration and possible settlement of the red planet. Students only leave the station dressed in custom-made space suits to better simulate the experience.

Seven miles outside of Hanksville, Utah, or 180 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, the station attracts scientists from all over the word who visit to live and work in an environment similar to that of Mars. The station, which features a laboratory on the first floor and crew quarters on the second, can house a group of 14 for two weeks.

BYU students majoring in engineering, physics, biology and astronomy were asked by the Mars Society to be the caretakers of the facility because of the university's proximity to the site. In addition to repairing and improving the habitat, the students have begun to help with research efforts. In a greenhouse next to the station, they are testing the effects of cold and high amounts of carbon dioxide on plants, issues a Mars base would face.

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