June 23, 2006 at 10:10 PM ET
For the 10th year, researchers are journeying up to the Canadian Arctic to test tools and techniques that could be used during future Mars missions. And now there's a new destination nearby: Arctic Europa, a stand-in for a moon of Jupiter that may harbor ice-covered oceans and even life.
Starting in 1997, the NASA-backed Haughton-Mars Project has used chilly, barren Haughton Crater on Devon Island in Canada's Nunavut territory as a stand-in for the Red Planet. Some of the pictures from that northern clime look eerily Marslike. The 10th field season is about to get under way, and you can check the HMP Web site for updates.
This summer, the nonprofit Planetary Society is sponsoring an expedition to Ellesmere Island, just next door to Devon, to conduct astrobiology experiments that someday may come into play on Europa. Check out the fascinating report on Borup Fiord Pass at the Planetary Society's Web site, and keep posted on developments by following Emily Lackdawalla's Planetary Society Weblog.
Still more researchers are working on Arctic Mars analog experiments at a site in Norway's Svalbard archipelago - check out this Astrobiology magazine article for the full story.
Meanwhile, NASA Watch has reported that the nonprofit Mars Society is forgoing its own summer expedition to the Canadian Arctic this year, but CNN said today that the society is planning a four-month Arctic expedition next year.