Pascal Lee (PL): Good afternoon everybody. Thanks very much for being here considering the weather outside and all that. I will try to make it worth your time. I will also try to also make it worth my time as I had to buy a ticket myself as well. Before I start I want to thank the Toronto Chapter of the Mars Society for inviting me here and putting this thing together. It's one of the most dynamic Chapters of the Mars Society; it doesn't have many members yet so that is saying a lot about how much effort the small group of people who lead it have put into supporting the Mars Society's goal and expansion. I hope that you will feel compelled to become a member of the Mars Society. I wonder why you haven't yet joined yet at the end of the day.
What brings me here today is I guess a rather incredible sequence of events, but it started with a scientific interest in part of your land - Devon Island in the Canadian High Arctic. And the interest started when I was in graduate school. I use to spend weekends driving up from upstate New York to Ontario to visit impact craters, get eaten up by black flies and other creatures you have. And so I figured, "Gee, I really wish impact craters were in a colder dryer place, more Mars-like, further". How high would you have to in latitude until you stopped being burdened by black flies in the studies of impact craters? So I looked at a map and hey, geez, there is this meteor impact crater that's high latitudes at 75 degrees north on Devon Island and no one has really studied it. Well some people had. In fact the Geological Survey of Canada had done a pretty extensive study of it in the mid '80s. But nobody had sort of looked it and that wasn't the goal any ways but nobody had looked at whether this place could tell us something about Mars or not. But yet here you had a island that was climatically a Polar desert. Polar deserts are not common on the Earth. The bulk of Antarctica is a polar desert. It's a place that is not only cold dry winds and unvegetated but extremely cold at that and precipitation is very close to zero in most of Antarctica. Devon Island is one of those parts of the Arctic that qualifies as a polar desert. The bulk of Siberia, the bulk of Alaska, and even the bulk of the Canadian Arctic is not polar desert. I think it's tundra some parts of it are taiga there are only very corners where the climate is extreme enough, low enough in precipitation dry enough in general, windy enough, desolate enough to qualify as a polar desert. And here you have Devon Island it's about the size of West Virginia and nobody lives there - I mean on Devon Island. It's the largest uninhabited island on our planet. And it's entire history is tied with exploration. Inuit explorers roamed the land and chose never to settle there probably for good reason. But they have settled for some time on the shores of Devon Island. it's been part of their history in particular through the adventure of a guy named Kitluk who used to sort of migrate between Baffin Island and western Greenland and swing by Devon Island on the way. Kitluk encountered several of the Western explorers who were in search of Franklin. An interesting episode in your history. And then of course Devon Island is tied profoundly to precisely Franklin's expedition. As you know several members of his team died on Devon Island and their tombs can found on Beechy Island which is just off Devon, which is in fact connected to Devon by a narrow isthmus. And so that's about it nothing else has been done with place except that people have died there in the process of going somewhere else. And so that turns out to be a place of astonishing not only beauty but also astonishing scientific interest. When we went there the first years of course we went because Mars as you know is a cold desert it qualifies as a polar desert in terrestrial terms is littered with impact craters. And these were the aprior reasons why this place might be promising as a Mars analog. May be by going there you would have some insight as to what Mars is all about and how Mars evolved through time. And when we went there the first year we went with wide open eyes a small group of four people we spent a summer up there. And it turned out we were absolutely flabbergasted by the array of geology, biology that you saw up there that looked like Mars. And of course the big question that has to pop in your mind is well is this meaning full. What does this resemblance mean, is it just superficial or coincidental or does it actually have a profound meaning. Maybe the processes that shaped the Martian surface through time are similar to those the land on Devon Island and so this is what this project is about. Trying to fundamentally understand our planet, in this case Devon Island specifically, and how this place came to be through time and extrapolating that or comparing our planet to another world, Mars, which is right next door.
And here is the deal about Mars OK look we are on this planet everything you know and everything you have done has pretty much happened on this planet. Twelve lucky people have landed on the Moon and roamed around, but pretty much all our activities have been focused on this planet. We have probes and robots to other planets and yet all our incursions have represented steps into our immediate vicinity in the big cosmic picture. As you know the Moon is about one and a half light-seconds away. When you look at the Moon at night the light that you see left the surface one point five seconds ago so you never quite see it live, there is always that little delay. And as you go further out when you look at the Sun - and don't look at the Sun - but consider the Sun. The Sun is eight light-minutes away, so if the Sun went "poof" you would not know about it until eight minutes had elapsed. And then Mars is anywhere from ten to forty light-minutes away so that might sound farther but consider how much closer it is to the Earth than Pluto is. Pluto is eight light-hours away. Then of course the nearest star is 4.26 light-years away so there you go. And there is a cosmic ocean between the Sun and the nearest star and all the stars that you see at night in the night sky are pretty much all part of our galaxy. Our galaxy is this huge swarm of stars approximately one hundred billion of them. Put that travel trough intergalactic space together in a swarm called the Milky Way. And the Milky Way spans approximately one hundred thousand light-years in diameter so light from one star at the end of the Milky Way will take one hundred thousand years to get to the other end. And then the Milky Way is only one galaxy among possibly ten billion or twenty billion galaxies in our current estimates. While that's far Mars in this big picture is nothing - OK why aren't we there already since we can? Mars is just the other side of the river it's the island that's offshore. It has nothing to do with the cosmic ocean this is interplanetary neighborhood. We ought to be there since we can. And so how we go from Devon Island to Mars?
Well it turns out that when we do field work on Devon Island, geology, biology the procedures that we use the techniques that we develop the approach that we have is actually similar to what we think the first humans on Mars will have to employ. So NASA has decided that through the Haughton Mars program we will begin of not only scientific study of this place but also a program of exploration research. We want to understand how exploration is done and how we can optimize the time and the effort of the lucky first explorers that will go to Mars. Now why don't we know that already? In other words there have been many studies of people's work practices. There are countless studies of how you in your office, there are countless of how you behave in your laboratory. Of how humans work and behave in factories. All this because you can optimize people's time better, their lives and learn from that. But very few studies have been done, in fact a handful perhaps on how field work is done. How you actually explore, what does a geologist do in the when he is in the field. He rarely is accompanied by a social scientist who is studying his work practices. And yet this is critical when you are talking about a voyage to Mars for the following reason. You are going to go to Mars by following the laws of nature, the laws of physics. And you can't be there instantaneously it's going to take six months for you approximately to get there. So six months of interplanetary cruise where it's not clear yet whether you are going in zero-g or microgravity or some simulated gravity but most likely in zero-g. And that's not a big deal people have survived much longer than that four hundred and twenty seven days so far is the longest continuous stay in space. But when you get to Mars you have two options. Your finger is on the red abort button and you press the and you go back to the Earth immediately and you have option because the Earth is still properly positioned and it's another six month voyage to get you back but you will get there. But if you don't press that abort button right there right then you are committed to staying on Mars for eighteen months. That's over five hundred days of stay and it not like you've - there with a, you know, a city you've landed there inside a module, and it's not like you also have your family and belongings with you, you are essentially crammed in that little thing with three to maybe five other crewmates. The total crew to go to Mars is thought to be between four and six. Because is if you start scaling any of this up having a bigger house or sending more people all of a sudden the amount of stuff you have to send to Mars increases dramatically and defeats the purpose of a cheap exploration mission. So there you go you are going to be faced with eighteen months of stay on Mars with a small group of people, your only little biosphere is this little pod it can only be approximately eight meters in diameter, it might have two decks according to current plans. And you have to do something with your eighteen months. You are going to have to explore and how will you do that. How long will it take you to explore the first mile around the base camp. How long will it take for you to explore to know the next ten miles [16 km--Ed.] out. What types of procedures should you follow? How many people go out at a time? Alright, how long, how often do you want go out every day once a week. How many rocks do you collect in your traverses typically How many vehicles do you want to take does every one have their own or should we all travel in a bus a Mars Bus. You know these are trivial questions but they will really determine how your eighteen months will be done. How fruitful they will be, also how safe they will be. And so there aren't that many opportunities to do this and you can imagine that you could put together a grand simulation, we could all move to central Australia with it's red desert right, and set up this Martian environment. Bomb the place and make more craters, OK just. Then pretend you are trying to learn about the geology of that place. But that is not going to teach you as much as studying an actual field work program. In other words what we are doing Devon Island is an actual field study. We are genuinely interested in understanding this place the process that you will be studying by coming up to Devon Island is not a simulation. We are not pretending that we don't know about the geology of that place and figuring how often we have to go out. No we actually don't know that place. OK. And we want to understand it better and that is why the opportunity is rare. So here you are in this Mars-like environment plus the opportunity of actually having to learn for real and that is why NASA has decided to tag along a pretty substantial exploration program in the future.
And it is not just NASA let me tell you right up front that this project at this point involves countless contributors. The only view of text that I will show you today. The Haughton Mars Project is based at NASA Ames. It has two components that oversee it's goals. Astrobiology and space sciences in the science area and the center of Mars exploration in the exploration research area. There is a project PI who is yours truly whose job is to well make sure this happens right and be responsible for a lot of things but at the same essentially act as a co-ordinator for this project. And we also have a project manager Dr. Kelly Snook who was nominated to this job only a couple weeks ago. And that to say nothing about the large team of scientists, exploration and researchers of fuel support personnel of students that we have already on board this program. Over a hundred people last summer did not go up there but were part of our project. This is why you actually need a project manager in addition to just myself to sort of manage all this. And here is just a brief list of all the people involved. At NASA Ames there are several codes as you know NASA is divided into codes. There is code science, code information technologies, who design radios and things like that. NASA Johnson and the US Marine Corps so far and I will tell you how. Other agencies and I listed have listed two of those who are in Canada the Polar Continental Shelf project supports us logistically the Nunavut Research Institute coordinates our research program up there and makes sure that it also serves the interests of local communities in Nunavut. The Canadian Space Agency is on board and we had the pleasure this past summer of having the medical support of the acting chief flight surgeon of the Canadian Space Agency but there are other areas of the our project that will be supported by Canadian Space Agency in the future. There are universities; I have only listed here Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania especially their robotics group. But also Simon Fraser University in Vancouver has supported us in communications research and also industrial partners most of which are not named here. Then there are private societies, in particular the National Geographic Society has supported us in donation, in cash. So that is pretty convenient every year the National Geographic Society writes Pascal Lee a twenty or twenty five thousand dollar cheque and I make sure I spend it on this project. And, interesting - National Geographic supports things that would otherwise be very difficult to support. For example they actually pick up the bill of our helicopter so essentially twenty five thousand dollars gets blown in downwash. It is very hard to do otherwise because, "Well why do you need the helicopter, since you are going to Haughton and you are there, why do you need to go somewhere else?". Well that is what exploration is all about, but it is hard to have people swallow that pill and so you have to get money elsewhere. And of course you need it needless to say. And last but not least the Mars Society. Now the Mars Society is very unusual it's not going to give us money but it is contributing both people and it will contribute an extraordinary facility. This thing. The Mars Arctic Research Station, acronym MARS. And I will go into more detail later but this particular facility will have three purposes. These purposes are more or less important depending on which part of this project you are talking to. For the Mars Society purpose number one is that this is a PR coup. In other words the Mars Society wants to generate a landslide of public interest, media attention, and hopefully this trickling down into political action from both private industrial lobbies in Congress and actual government action in support of a human mission to Mars. And if that is achieved the Mars Society ought to be happy because that is moving along in getting the Mars program funded. The second goal for this facility is that it serve as a useful field lab for the Haughton Mars Project. To do field work you want to have a pod, I mean a lab, typically we could just have a shipping container with windows placed on Devon Island to support and shelter our computers and high-tech stuff. Instead we have something pretty nice that is contributed by the Mars Society. And the third thing is that it isn't shaped like a shipping container it's not just a shelter it's actually a simulated spacecraft. And of course this is not flight qualified hardware but it has the dimensional constraints eight meter sin diameter and two decks that are realistic. It is not some imaginary biosphere-type grand program it is something that has an engineering real base to it. Basic for it I mean. And the idea here is that by operating from a facility like this with a crew of four to six people inside we will learn how exploration can be done and the limits of that are. So there you go. So without further ado let me show you mostly pictures and I will talk to you about two things, well three. One is science, two is exploration research, and three is what we will with the Mars Arctic Research Station. And in science they are mainly two components geology and biology. Without further ado let me move on to the slides and then please feel free to interrupt if any of you have questions feel free, dim the lights.
OK this is where you want to go, planet Mars. And it's an extraordinary world I don't have to describe you the basics of planet Mars, but for one thing it's a little smaller than the Earth about half-ways in size between the Moon and the Earth. Gravity is point three eight G so if you weigh one hundred pounds on Earth it's only thirty eight pounds on Mars. One hundred kilos on Earth thirty eight kilos on Mars. I usually get more reaction to that but I guess if overused it's old pretty fast. You know NASA lost a spacecraft just a few weeks ago from a unit problem. So let's use metric. Haughton Mars Project by the way uses metric, let it be heard. Thanks. So this is where you want to now what's interesting even though it's smaller and gravity is weaker because you don't have oceans or seas or rivers that are filled with water today the land area on Mars is pretty much equal to the total land area on the Earth. So it's a large piece of real estate to explore. It's a lot of work but it can be done. The history is complex, and by the way we are particularly interested because it happens to be there, OK we are interested in Mars because among all the other planets - why Mars rather than Venus or Jupiter? We are interested in Mars because it is one of the most Earth-like planets in the solar system and the key, the central thing in our quest for exploring Mars is trying to understand, well how did life emerge?, what does it take for life to appear?, does a roughly Earth-like planet suffice? Has it experienced life itself and even if you were to find life - fossil life on Mars you would still have to figure if it is related to life on Earth or not. If it is totally unrelated to life on Earth well then you have a sense that life may be something pretty universal. On the other hand if it is genetically bound, phylogenetically bound, tied to early life on Earth - you can tell that from genetic studies other fossil recognition tools. Then it says nothing about the generality of life in the universe because we know that meteorites can be swapped between planets. We have meteorites from Mars and therefore Mars might have meteorites from the Earth. And if that is possible, maybe microbes can be transferred from one world to the other. So it could well be that even if we find life on Mars and it is related to life on Earth it won't say anything about life is general is in the universe. But we don't even know the answer to this, is there even life on Mars or has there ever been. And in order to do this you can initial reconnaissance with a rover or with a robot. They will take nice pictures of your landscape they can scratch the ground here and there, they can roam around a little bit. But thorough convincing exploration of the surface and subsurface you won't know the answer until you go there yourself and really poked around. And so there is no question that robotic exploration is not there to replace and make it really convenient for humans that way they don't have to go. That's not the way to look at robotic exploration. The role of robotic exploration is to do reconnaissance. First go out there and figure out what is easy to figure out and then help you plan your expedition yourself and once you are there by the way support you in ways that will render your time on the surface of Mars as productive as possible. That is the role of robotics OK, and so there is really no competition on between humans and robots. It just depends on the phase of exploration you are considering and the task that you have at hand. If all you want to do is measure the composition of the Martian atmosphere you don't have to go there with a test tube yourself and open the tube close it and bring it back to the Earth, that's useless. You go there and do that with a robot. But if you are talking about looking for fossils digging around, trying to understand the geology of the place especially spotting the unexpected and putting in picture that makes sense. Well you know a robot is far from being able to do that. Alright, that said this is the planet you want to explore. There is air on Mars but it's not like the Earth's air, it's mainly carbon dioxide. The temperatures are very cold: the average temperature on Mars minus sixty C. Peak temperature, summer at the equator, late afternoon, plus fifteen C but it lasts for about twenty minutes and the same night temperatures drop to minus hundred or so, the atmosphere is very thin so it is like you are high altitude the nights are extremely cold and during the day it can become pretty warm. Low thermal inertia and then let's see, the atmosphere is so thin it is pretty much like the atmosphere on the Earth at one hundred thousand feet altitude [30.5 km--Ed.]. Now in spite of it's thinness you are still protected from some harmful cosmic rays so it is better to be on Mars than in deep space in that respect. And also there is not much of a magnetic field to protect you, but there is an ionosphere at least that shields you a little bit from solar particles on the daylight side and then at night well since the Sun is gone you lose that threat but then you don't have much protection from deep space. There are volcanoes there are things that are very much like you see on the Earth. And by the way you know you often hear Mars has the largest volcano in the solar system; this thing has six hundred meters no six hundred kilometers in diameter, twenty seven kilometers in altitude, alright. How do we know that it's a volcano OK we don't have rocks from it we never landed there. We know it from morphology. We look at what the landscape from spacecraft photos you propose an interpretation and that is pretty much how we have made progress in understanding the history of planetary surfaces is from morphology. And in spite of the fact that sometimes you are arm-waving saying, Hey, this looks like a volcano, therefore it is one. In the end it is one of your powerful tools if used properly to understand the surface of a planet. There are volcanoes on Mars and impact craters and you can tell the difference between the two easily. There was once possibly an ocean on Mars in fact the outline that you see here that's light orange is windblown deposits that occupy most of the northern lowlands of Mars and this is pretty much the outline of what was once possibly an ocean on early Mars OK. It might have been a very thin ocean, it might have been iced throughout in fact pretty quickly as soon as it formed or as it was forming. But the point was there was a body of ponding water in the Martian lowlands early in it's history and the evidence for this is still indirect and nobody knows for sure so that something to keep in mind. The fact that the terrains are younger there are less impact craters means that the processes that have reshaped the surfaces have been very efficient through time and water would definitely help if it were there. And then what is dark on this picture on the lower right, by the way this is a space telescope shortly after it got fixed, what's dark in the lower right is the Martian highlands they are the most ancient terrains on Mars they have many many impact craters and that is why they are ancient. They are higher in altitude by about one to two kilometers compared to the lowland on average. And it is on these ancient terrains that you find most of the signs of ancient valleys on Mars. Little valley networks that make you claim that early Mars was wet and warm, well they are found mostly in the ancient highlands. The more recent times was definitely much drier. And then there are polar caps, mostly CO2 frost as far as we know, the southern pole - sorry the northern pole also has some water, water ice. We don't know whether the southern polar ice cap has water at all. Alright let's move on OK. This is a Viking Orbiter picture of Mars showing you the boundary between the southern highlands and the northern plains. And what you see here is actually what some people think are the remains of an ancient shoreline. The cliff at the base then impact craters in the sea. The point also that is of interest as you can see there are big valleys carved out of the northern highlands - sorry southern highlands as you can see here. A testimony to the fact that Mars was a wetter place in the past. This is a picture of the surface of Mars as revealed by the Viking Lander 2 that landed on Utopia Planitia in 1976. And so this could be Provo, Utah, but it isn't, it's Mars. It's alien of course there are no plants, nothing that's living that's visible. But on the other hand once you see pictures of Devon Island, you could say that this is Devon Island. Alright well this is the planet we start from and I am not going to go into too many details but there are only very few places that can teach you something about Mars. Mars in terms of planetary extreme on the Earth is on the cold, windy and dry side. So to get to places that extreme and that general environment you are pretty much stuck with the polar regions or very high altitudes. And the polar regions are dominated in terms of this type of environment by Antarctica. Antarctica is the coldest, driest, windiest, highest continent on our planet, but most of it is ice-capped and so since Mars is a rocky desert, you are going to go to Antarctica and look for those places that are not in fact covered by ice but by rock. And they turn out to be very few, the Dry Valleys are one of the main outcrops like that, and the Dry Valleys are very hard to get to, very expensive to operate in, environmentally extremely fragile, because it never rains. It hasn't rained there in the past ten thousand years. In fact little huts that were trailered into the dry valleys to support field research left there in nineteen fifty nine left tracks that are still visible today. And so this environment does not regenerate itself nearly fast enough for NASA to want to move in there and sort of start moving rovers around. So you want to look for other places and that might be somewhat less fragile environmentally but still present the extremes that are relevant for the exploration of Mars. Antarctica nevertheless is still useful for Mars-related research, especially in terms of how crew, how crews are isolated in some of these Antarctic bases over the winter and how they interact. The psychology and also the medical aspects of a crew in a Mars base in Antarctica is relevant and in fact has been studied to over help you understand how a crews can behave on space stations or on a voyage to Mars. There are ongoing programs right now at several of these Antarctic bases that are providing data to flight surgeons around the world. To nail down the psychological factors for the screening process to select crews optimally for such missions. This is a picture of the French base Dumont d'Urville where I happened to spend a year in '88. All young men in France have to do one year of national service, at least they had to at the time. I had a background in geophysics so I applied to go down to Antarctica, right and spent fourteen months at this place. And that was an incredible experience and the message I want to convey here is that fourteen months alright in a place like this, as barren as cold as desolate alright is a piece of cake. Psychological factor that's nonsense in the sense that if you are motivated, if you are kept busy, if you are doing it right it really should not be a problem. The people who had some problems are people who went there with their problems. In other words they took their problems from back in France or back home. They had family troubles or professional problems those got exasperated down on the ice. Otherwise you ought to be living pretty happily there if you are kept busy have a goal you are working for. This is just another picture of that stay that illustrated the fact that the polar regions are not necessarily good Mars analogs all year around OK. Days can get pretty short in winter. And this is one of our shortest days. Sun rose on the right at eleven thirty AM and was gone by one thirty PM. This is not a surprise to you as Canadians and the Arctic is part of your land. But the point is if you have a crew or the Arctic base occupied through out the winter, there are issues that essentially relevant to early Martian exploration. You would be faced with several months of darkness. And even if they could see outside the ground would be covered by snow. So you can't see rocks you can't do geology. And so it's not necessarily a bright idea to want to occupy this Mars Arctic Research Station year-round. You have to do things that are meaningful. Alright. So let's get to the meat of this. This is the place: Devon Island, no airport whatsoever; the closest airport is Resolute on Cornwallis Island. And you fly there, you used to be able to fly there by Canadian Airlines. But now the only the only airline that goes there is First Air. So you fly you board a First Air plane in Edmonton or Ottawa you stop in Yellowknife or Baffin Island. And then you fly onto Resolute. Once you get to Resolute you are sheltered and pampered and taken care of by the Polar Continental Shelf project a great agency a government agency they are based in Ottawa. And they support science teams from around the world in the Arctic by supplying them with aircraft, transportation, food, supplies, vehicles, search and rescue. And so Polar Shelf has been up in the Arctic since the late '40s and is continuing to support research programs like our own up there. You take a Polar Arctic Shelf plane and you go over to Devon Island, Haughton Crater. This is Haughton Crater, fifteen kilometers across. Twenty three million years old, pretty eroded, and it is the highest latitude, highest terrestrial impact crater, the highest latitude terrestrial impact crater known on land, right. There is one impact crater at higher latitudes still but it's on the Arctic Ocean floor. It's the latitude that's relevant to mock Mars. Well this is Haughton Crater named after a geologist who analyzed rock samples brought back by M'Clintock who as you might recall one of the guys who found the only letter from the Franklin expedition describing the fate of those guys. Haughton Crater is very interesting as craters go, OK it has preserved things that are usually destroyed at other impact sites. Let me just tell you two, one is that the middle of the crater the central point, the terrain is lightest in colour here is occupied by gray hill, hills with light shades of gray. And these hills are very bizarre because they are made of this very unique rock. It's rock that rained down from the sky it's not the meteorite itself. It's rock that was excavated at the time of the impact. It's made of samples of target rocks of the Earth but all jumbled. And these materials were thrown several thousands of feet high and rained back down and got rewelded together under the shear heat of the impact event. So what you have here occupying some of the crater are heaps and heaps of jumbled material, that today are laced with ground ice because we are in the polar regions and there is permafrost all over the place. And so right there you can tell that you have an analog for the regolith on Mars, the soil on Mars, which is thought to be fragmented by impacts and also packed with water but only on the ground in the form of ice. You have a question?