Scientists from NASA, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, are in Iceland right now, preparing for a 2020 expedition to Mars, mbl.is reports.
In Lambahraun lava field, at the base of Langjökull glacier, they are testing the equipment of a small rover, intended for use in the expedition. They describe conditions in Iceland as similar to those on Mars.
The rover being tested is a prototype for the robotic rover to be sent to Mars, where its camera system is to create a three-dimensional map of the land in front of it.
The AFP video above includes commentary from Adam Deslauriers, scientist at Canada’s Mission Control Space Services, who tests the rover. He notes that conditions in the lava field are ideal for the preparations.
In the video, Texas A&M University Professor Ryan Ewing states that the mineralogy in Iceland is very similar to that, which would be found on Mars.
A statement from Reykjavík University, posted in May, explains that in Lambahraun lava field, there is dry basalt sand, similar to the sand on Mars and not found in many places outside Iceland, in addition to weather-beaten basalt lava. In that same area, there are also channels in the sand, left by meltwater from the glacier, reminiscent of channels on Mars and, therefore, especially interesting to the scientists.
The goal of the mission to Mars, planned to begin in July or August of next year, is to look for signs of ancient life there, in addition to collecting information in preparation for a human mission to the planet.