Manned missions to the Red planet have always fascinated humans on Earth. The inordinate successes of Mars wanderer missions has unwrapped inquisitiveness among people to explore more of the interplanetary worlds. Interestingly, space agencies on Earth have identified many places on the globe, earmarked as bearing close resemblance to the landscape of Mars. If you were to seek for the alien world, why not embark on a space- bound run through the length and breadth of Earth and allow your creative mind to discover similar places on our friendly planet first. Martian places on Earth that bare remarkable similarities to the red planet, has kept scientists craving for more research fostering investigations on how some day, human beings could actually survive on Mars. These studies have resulted in identification of many Mars like places on Earth and travelling to these locations in many ways resemble a journey to a new planet. Especially, the varied cultures, dreamlike landscapes, topography and architecture, may appear as alien to a traveller as to an astronaut’s mission to Mars.
Here is a list of 10 best places on Earth that closely resemble Mars and worth a layover:
- Red Centre/Great Artesian Basin/Simpson Desert – Australia
The Simpson Desert, underlain by the Great Artesian Basin, is an expansive area characterized by dry, red sand dunes in the Northern Territory of South Australia and Queensland in Central Australia. Spread over an area of 176,500 square km, Simpson Desert, this fourth largest Australian desert features as the world’s largest sand dune desert. The desert comprises the longest parallel sand dunes. The dune fields derives its name of the red centre from its display of a range of colors, predominated by hues of dark red, pink and orange. The Great Artesian Basin is one of the largest inland drainage extents on the globe. One of the reasons for which it is labelled as bearing a striking resemblance to Mars is Australia’s large Opal concentration found in this region. The process of acidic oxidative weathering that ensues from largely available Opal resources makes Australia one of world’s largest suppliers of Opal. Similar existential resource discovery on planet Mars fosters a deeper connection between the Earthly continent and the red planet.
- Atacama Desert – Chile
A plateau land, the Atacama Desert is located in Chile, South America, covering a 1000 km strip of land. Mostly composed of rugged stony terrain and saline lakes, the desert is characterized by the felsic lava that flows towards the Andes. Research reveals the Atacama Desert is the driest desert in the world with some locations in the region never having received rain and is marked by extreme day and night temperatures. The arid conditions of the Atacama Desert resemble the parched terrain of Mars very closely. This place has been chosen by NASA as one their favorite testing grounds for Mars rovers and robots for skill detection to study life on the red planet. In 2004, scientists funded by NASA spent almost a month in the Atacama region studying the conditions determining scarcity of life to source cues on potential existence of life on Mars.
- Chott El Djerid – Tunisia
Translated from Arabic, Chott El Djerid means “Lagoon of the Land of Palms” in English. The largest salt lake located in the Saharan Desert, it covers an area of over 7000 sqkm. Greek mythology has it that goddess Athena was born here. Chott El Djerid’s massive salt pan is said to give the same barren and isolated imagery like that of Mars. Along the year, there are occasions when the lake is known to change hues, taking on different colours like white, green, purple and sometimes red as well. The varied colours paint a Mars like picture that could be imagined during dusk and dawn on Mars. Recent researchers reveal negligible traces of water on the desert that can be compared to the dry red planet.
- Dasht-E Lut – Iran
Also known as the Lut Desert, the Dasht-E Lut is located in Kerman, Sistan and Baluchistan province of Iran. It is a large salt desert and was etched on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. NASA equipped one of its satellites with a “Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer”, to measure temperatures in the desert from space, over a seven-year period of research. The study revealed that 5 years during that period, Dasht-E Lut emerged as the hottest spot on Earth. The surface of the sand recorded temperatures as high as 70 °C, resulting as one of the world’s hottest and driest places. The rocky structures in the salt desert look like tall standing sand castles that look like any of NASA’s photos taken of Mars.
- Death Valley – California, United States
Located in Eastern California, the Death Valley is known for its aridity and extremes of temperatures. The desert valley is marked by lack of water but is certainly not devoid of life. Salt grass and salt-tolerant pickle weed attribute to the floral life in the region. In 2005, the valley was noticed for a big pool of greenish water that stretched across its floor and came to be known as the “badwater basin”, characterized by salt flats. The sand dunes, rocky face and serrated hills, standing on a crusty dried desert carpet makes it reminiscent of the visuals of red planet.
- Grand Canyon – United States
Considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon’s enormousness is simply stunning. The crimson and dark orange coloured rocks and a deep excavated gorge, intertwine to create a surreal imagery that can transcend the onlooker to another planet. Interestingly, the European Space Agency, released images of the “Valles Marineris”, known to the largest canyon in the solar system that cuts across the surface of Mars. The “Valles Marineris” stretches over 4000 km width and is several times longer and deeper than the Grand Canyon on Earth.
- Chabahar Mountains- Iran
Closely located near the Oman Sea, Chabahar Mountains in Iran are Martian looking mounts that cut in arbitrary forms and is devoid of any vegetation. The steep cliffs of the Chabahar Mountains resemble sharp pieces of glass. The unique and beautiful structure is attributed by the soil erosion, where the mountain’s crags look white in colour, with its dream landscape reminding of what Mars looks like.
- Wadi Rum – Jordan
This region of Jordan is relatively isolated and an exemplary desert area, with extreme temperatures, making it inhospitable for habitat. The rock structures and dark red sand plains, sketch an image similar to that of mysterious environment imagined on Mars. Its uncanny resemblance to Mars gained Wadi Rum its cinematic popularity as the location was chosen for shooting the film “”Martian”. Dusty mornings and nights marked by sights of mighty shooting stars, give Wadi Rum’s majestic landscape an interplanetary awe.
- Lake Mungo Walls of China – Australia
A dry lake basin, Lake Mungo includes several archaeological sites. It spans across 2400 sq km in the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area, in New South Wales, Australia. The red colour of the rocks is prominent in the Australian basin. The sharp abstract angles resting on the landscape, makes this part of the Earth look as striking as Mars. While the name reads as similar to Walls of China, it’s definitely not to be confused with the same.
- Goblin Valley State Park – United States
Located in southern Utah, Goblin Valley is a State Park of Utah, in U.S.A. Much as a journey to a colourful and mysterious valley, the landscape of Goblin Valley State Park, is covered with sandstone and strange formations that look like Mars. The tent rocks give the hills a mushroom look, standing several metres tall. The goblin like structures of the valley can be explored by scurrying and camping around the crannies. The uncanny rock pinnacles are covered by soft sandstone on the top. The valley owing to its hoody art was also featured as an alien planet in “Galaxy Quest”.
While you may have to wait till human missions to the red planet takes off, you can satiate the quest for exploration, by skyrocketing to one of the imaginative places on Earth. Explore!
Article by Rochita.