According to the Austrian Space Forum, the Dhofar desert has a very close resemblance to the features of the surface of the planet Mars. This makes it a perfect spot where researchers can conduct experiments to imitate how life would be on Mars, which will further help with planning for the trip there in the 2030s. So, how does the desert resemble this planet?
The Sedimentary Structures
The sedimentary structures are visible features in the sedimentary rocks which reflect the semblances of the physical and biological processes that took place in the depositional environments. These structures in the Dhofar desert are very similar to those that exist on Mars.
The Salt Domes
Salt domes are a structure that was formed of evaporite salt, found at depth, which intruded upwards into a sedimentary rock forming a dome. The salt domes of the Dhofar desert resemble those of Mars as well.
The Ancient River Beds
An ancient river bed is an old channel which a river used to run through before it was dried.
How will the Austrian Space Forum operate their experiment in the desert?
First of all, the experiment is set to start in February 2018, when six astronauts will spend around four weeks in the desert, in complete isolation. During this period, they will conduct 19 experiments as a dress rehearsal for the first manned voyage to Mars. Carrying some robotic rovers, an inflatable hydroponic greenhouse and a drone, they plan to retrace the footsteps of Marco Polo and the English explorer Wilfred Thesiger on the Dhofar desert.
Gernot Grömer, the President of the Austrian Space forum and the project’s director, said that this will be the biggest mission the forum has ever done. One of its most important experiments will be a full simulation to life on Mars. Maybe it’s true then, Oman has a piece of land that is out of this planet.