Latest Headlines:

Final Report of Jon Clarke

December 19, 2016

Jon Clarke – Mars 160 phase one final words

As the first half of the expedition ends I look back on what we have achieved here look forward to we aim to achieve at FMARS. Looking back, from my perspective, the missions has been a great success. We have collected significant new data on the geology and geomorphology of the area that should lead to publishable results. Similarly we have collected a lot of data on the operational aspects that will help us better understand the capabilities of analogue field exploration. The context of what we aim to do at the two stations lies at the heart of the twin mission concept, the similarities and differences between the two stations and their settings and the work done at each.

Both stations are similar design, differing mainly in details. Both stations both are located in arid environments which have many Mars analogue features. The focus of both halves of the mission is on operations, carrying out exploration and field science under operational constraints similar to those which would exist on Mars missions. These include working while wearing simulated space suits, limited facilities and resources, restricted, asynchronous communications, similar core station structure, almost identical crew and leadership, and executing extensive and multi-disciplinary field research over many months.

The differences arise from the contrasting settings. MDRS is located in a mostly hot desert, FMARS in a cold desert (although it must be recognised that the MDRS field area is subjected to frost for at least 160 days of the year). The geology at MDRS consists of Jurassic and Cretaceous non-marine to marine clastic sediments, that of FMARS of Ordovician to Silurian marine carbonates. FMARS is underlain, like the Martian surface, by permafrost, absent from MDRS. The prime feature of FMARS is that it is located on the rim of the Haughton impact crater. Impact processes are important factors on the surface of Mars and FMARS is in a unique location where such processes are overprinted by permafrost.

Other differences exist in the human context of the two expeditions. We expect the facility at FMARS to be more basic, more isolated and more confined than MDRS, with far less interactions with mission support. In this regard it will be a sterner test of the crew. Consequences of any problems will be potentially much more severe for the individual, the crew, and the mission. However during the first phase of the mission the crew has shown itself capable of working together as a caring and bonded team, with few disagreements, and I expect this to be an asset for the much more severe conditions of the Arctic.

Looking forward to the Arctic I would expect a stronger emphasis on the geological aspects of the research because of the presence of two experienced geologists on the crew instead of one. This would be both in the area of specific research and research in support of the biological objectives.