Mars is in. NASA is accepting applications from 14th December from aspiring astronauts who dream of the red planet. In September 2015, the director of planetary science at NASA, Jim Green, stated that “Under certain circumstances, liquid water has been found on Mars”. This modest statement explores the real possibility that Mars could be capable of maintaining life.
Ridley Scott brought this idea to the big screen with Matt Damon a year ago and the Mars One project intends to do so, not without some controversy, as a reality show orchestrated by the Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp. The objective: to establish a human colony on Mars by 2016.
The Atacama Desert in Chile is one of the terrestrial landscapes most reminiscent of the extreme conditions of Mars.
For those more intersted in staying on Earth, we have found appropriate alternatives. The Atacama Desert in Chile is one of the terrestrial landscapes most reminiscent of the extreme conditions of Mars. This is the driest desert on Earth. The Chilean Coastal Mountain Range, at a height of 2,500 metres, is what prevents this area from high humidity levels, resulting in extreme temperatures. During the day they can reach up to 40°C and at night drop to 0°C.
Staying in the Southern Cone, Argentina is also home to several areas worthy of appearing in a science fiction blockbuster, such as Talampaya National Park, in the northwest of the country (La Rioja region). It has an area of 215,000 hectares, which are practically barren and are a succession of red plains, canyons and ravines.
The United States is home to two areas with an extra-terrestrial feel: The Petrified Forest in Arizona, and Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park in California. The first is famous for its fossilised tree trunks, although if it’s a Martian landscape we’re looking for, the Painted Desert is the right choice, thanks to its rich diversity of minerals. Zabriskie Point is the entrance to Death Valley, a viewpoint over the barren beauty of the park, which we recommend visiting with plenty of water, as the heat is usually unforgiving.
On the Canary Islands (Spain), the similarities to Mars are strikingly clear.Lanzarote is home to Timanfaya National Park, an area created by several volcanic eruptions that occurred in the 17th and 18th centuries. There are large areas of solidified magma, beds of lapilli and volcanic cones that are red, ochre, orange and black.
In the same country, NASA has been researching extremophile life forms in the waters of a small red-coloured river: the Rio Tinto (Huelva). The colour of its waters is caused by the oxide of the metals that are extracted from nearby deposits and also by sulphuric acid.
In Africa, Dead Vlei has quite an extra-terrestrial appearance. The most arid part of Namib-Naukluft National Park, in Namibia, is considered to be the oldest desert in the world and has the highest sand dunes. Over 900 years ago it was an oasis covered in acacia trees. When it became dry, so did the trees, leaving their trunks drained of water and creating an unsettling landscape.