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29 June 2005
We go somewhere that they say looks a lot like Mars and we meet some people who would love to go to the real place.

PATRICK EMMETT: From prehistoric times, mankind has been fascinated with Mars. The closest planet to Earth and has spawned countless books and movies. One of these, 'Red Planet', was filmed near Coober Pedy in 2000.

And those barren landscapes are again drawing Martian devotees from around the world - this time it's the rugged hills around Arkaroola.

JON CLARKE, MARS SOCIETY: Aspects of the landscape are very Martian.

We have dune fields at Arkaroola and up in the Stezlecki Desert, we have springs, we've got big outwash fans from the creeks in the Flinders Ranges, we've got dry lakebeds, and all these features we have seen in images from Mars from orbiters and from rovers.

PATRICK EMMETT: Jon Clarke is a member of the Mars Society, a group of scientists from around the world devoted to putting humans on Mars.

JON CLARKE: In some ways we're very close. In some ways there's probably 10 to 20 years of testing and thinking that needs to be done before we're ready to go, but we need to start thinking about it if we want to go.

PATRICK EMMETT: The work at Arkaroola will build on experiments already conducted overseas. They'll be testing equipment and techniques for what is, by any estimates, an enormous and dangerous task.

In January, when NASA landed two rovers on the planet, it took them six months to get there.

It's estimated a human mission would take 2 and a half years in total.

Once on the ground, any Mars crew would have its work cut out getting around on a planet where gravity is around half what it is on Earth, and some mountain ranges are 24km high.

The expedition will be testing a new generation of spacesuits to make that easier.

PATRICK EMMETT: This new elasticised suit will be getting its first test at Arkaroola. It's more like a wetsuit than the traditional spacesuit. It weighs half as much, it's a lot more flexible, and it's a lot safer.

One of the main reasons why Mars creates so much interest is that it seems the planet most likely to have had life on it.

Even though its average temperature now is now -55 degrees Celsius, it used to be a lot warmer.

And there's evidence there may be water there.

JAMES WALDIE: The great scientific question is 'are we alone in the universe?

Travelling to Mars, exploring Mars, may answer that question.

PATRICK EMMETT: Do you hope that one day you'll be wearing one of your suits on Mars?

JAMES WALDIE: I think that's the dream of all Mars Society people.

story notes

A planet in our solar system.

Words to do with space are the subject of today's spotlight.

Arkaroola is in northern South Australia, in the outback.
Arkaroola is in northern South Australia, in the outback.

features; parts

Martian here means from or like Mars.

Martian is usually used as a noun for fictional creatures from Mars.
Martian is usually used as a noun for fictional creatures from Mars.

dune fields
large areas covered with dry, hot sand dunes

small, hot pools of water that come up from under the earth

dry lakebeds
lakes that have no water in them

If you are devoted to something, you are loyal or dedicated. You do it all the time.

North Ameriacan Space Agency; the United States space organisation.

Rovers are machines designed to move around the planet, sending information back to scientists on earth.


A mission is a group of people sent to do a certain task.