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Okay, okay, so we’re not going just yet, but there’s a place (three, actually) where humans can experience what it’s like to live on Mars. Located in the Canadian Arctic, Utah and with a third under construction, these desert research centers are the Mars Society‘s pride and joy.

The Society’s main objective is to “further the exploration and settlement of the red planet” through the encouragement of public and private research into space exploration. Part of this project is the research done at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station and the Mars Desert Research Station. Here volunteers live like they’re on Mars to learn what resources will be needed once we finally fly to the red planet.

Participants live in a “habitat building” which resembles the shuttle that would be flown to Mars and lived in once they land. Days consist of doing field exploration in spacesuits, laboratory work, learning to fix equipment and writing reports.

Think that sounds like space camp for Star Trek fans? Think again. Mars Society president, Robert Zubrin wants to make it very clear that they are furthering the science that will get humans to Mars.

“What we’re doing is a field exercise. It’s operations research,” he told Your Morning‘s Anne-Marie Mediwake, “You find out what tactics work and what don’t work, how much water a crew actually needs, what kind of field vehicles to use, what is the best command structure, what are the best character types.”

That’s right, they’re researching everything, right down to what kind of temperament is best suited to live on Mars. So with all this work being done, how long until we’re kicking back on a new planet?

“I think we can be on Mars ten years from program start,” Zubrin says, “Despite all the difficulties there are, we’re a lot closer to Mars today than we were to the moon in 1961 and we were there eight years later.”

So Mars is closer than we might think, people. And the best part? If you’re interested, you can even be a part of getting there. The Mars Society is always accepting volunteers to help with research at their Mars stations. We definitely didn’t think we’d be seeing Mars up close in our life times, but it looks like we might actually get there pretty soon.

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