Brown U. researchers helping with NASA’s mission to Mars

By: Rebecca Turco


PROVIDENCE – Brown University scientists are helping NASA plan for human exploration of Mars.

Jim Head III, Ph.D. is a geologist at the university. Last week, he joined scientists from across the country to pitch which spots on the planet they believe are the best for the astronauts to land.

Head chose a spot known as Deuteronilus Mensae. “If you go there, you’d simply have to pull the soil away – which you’d want to use for protection and building of structures anyway – and then you’ll have access to an unlimited supply of liquid water,” he explained.

Earlier this year, NASA scientists made a breakthrough, confirming that liquid water is on Mars. Now, they’re saying solar wind is causing the air that’s left on the red planet to leak away at half a pound a second.

All of this, as NASA begins recruiting astronauts to prepare for this unprecedented journey to better understand the mysterious red planet. “It’s potentially the home that we would want to have off of Earth,” Head said. “You’d just have to ask the dinosaurs: is it important to have other options? And of course, they can’t answer because they’re gone, made extinct by an impact.”

The mission to get boots on the ground on Mars likely won’t happen for several years. It will be the first manned space shuttle since NASA retired that program in 2011.

NASA will begin accepting applications for new astronauts Dec. 14. Applicants need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological or physical science, or mathematics, plus three years of professional experience or 1,000 hours of pilot time. Applicants must also be able to pass the space physical.

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