Mission to Mars: Why Scientists Are Starting Their Search for Martian Life in Hawaii
Hawaii is a conducive place for Martian simulation as proven by a recently concluded year-long simulation inside a humongous dome on a Hawaiian mountain. But it looks like Hawaii is not only suitable for simulating the isolated Martian condition but also as a training ground for the search for alien life.
NASA's simulation will take place in Mauna Ulu in Hawaii. NASA's Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains (BASALT) mission will start this week at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The research is designed to help scientists develop new means and protocol in collecting and preserving biological samples in order to search for signs of any form of life on Mars.
"Really, the whole reason for going to Mars is to see if there's life there," John Hamilton, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii at Hilo said in an interview. "There's a lot of great geology. But are we alone?" Hamilton added.
The search for alien life should not be construed or limited to the search for extra-terrestrials. NASA's search for signs of life outside the Earth can also mean searching for signs of life including even the microorganisms that could have existed billions of years ago.
BASALT will be conducted with the help of the University of Hawaii. Researchers will be stationed at the Mauna Ulu and will stay there for two weeks. In line with that, the researchers will receive help from Geologists and biologists so find effective ways in collecting and preserving samples that might contain living microorganisms.
NASA has been working on protecting samples from contamination and had already released its Bio-Indicator Lidar Instrument that can detect signals from 'biologically active' organisms with very minimal contamination.
NASA chose the mountains in Hawaii due to its terrain and even conditions when it comes to communications. There would be a delay of 20 minutes just like how it would be on Mars. The ridges on Hawaiian mountains make it more feasible as a simulation location. Also, there are some minerals that can also be found on the surface of Mars like some volcanic rocks.