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In the northeast of Morocca, one can find landscapes which are very reminiscent of Mars – both in terms of looks and geology. Reason enough for the Austrian Space Forum to have a close look in preparation of the 2013 Fieldmission!
Two geologists of the Ibn Battuta Centre (University of Marrakesh and University of Pescara) guided Csilla Orgel (University of Budapest) and Gernot Groemer (Austrian Space Forum) in an extraordinary excursion using a 4×4 vehicle right across the northern Sahara, over sand dunes and stony deserts to study the analogies of Morocco with Mars: Prof. Gian Gabriele Ori of the university of Pescara (I) and Prof. Kamal Tai-Eddine of the university of Marrakesh, both experts of the country’s geology as well as of the planetology of Mars, showed the team around the desert. “The landscape is as fascinating as is similar to Mars” says Gernot Groemer, “ if we look at images from the Viking probes in Utopia Planitia on Mars and compares them with the stony deserts south of Erfoud, the only difference is the colour of the sky.
With temperatures between 17°C in the shade and 37°C in full sunshine, this excursion als offers a nice contrast to the middle of Europe, where temperatures drop to -15°C and below this winter. Still, this 5 day journey was very exhausting: Seven hour roadtrips across the Atlas, circling around sheep and camels, off-road driving, the exploration of sandstone caves and hikes up on rocky peaks to obtain a better view all take their toll on the crew.
Apart from photographic documentation, logistical discussions and measurements of several enviromental parameters, the team also collected numerous geological samples. “This potential area is perfectly suited for our simulation”, so Csilla Orgel, “It has got basalt layers, dried rivers and lakes and even sandstone caves – all things which are present on Mars. This makes it an ideal testing area.”
The fieldsimulation “Morocco 2013” is an international cooperation of the Austrian Space Forum. An extensive Mars-Analogue Simulation will be staged in February 2013. The next test for this mission will be performed in the Dachstein area in the Upper Austrian “Salzkammergut”.
This article is available in: German
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