Dhofar Desert in Oman is believed to be a replica of the conditions that an astronaut would have to face when he or she lands on Mars. The temperatures can go beyond 51 degrees Celsius, and scientists from many countries have assembled here to spend one month carrying out experiments. These will provide valuable inputs for future missions to Mars and is seen as a step to colonize the red planet.

Daily Mail UK reports that the area selected resembles Mars. The scientists will stay and work in the Oman Mars Base which is a huge inflated habitat surrounded by shipping containers that have been converted and turned into labs.

Efforts to colonize Mars

The venue of the Dhofar Desert in Oman is an ideal place to conduct field-testing of technology that could be used to undertake manned missions to Mars. NASA hopes to achieve that target by the 2030s. A number of public and private ventures have already embarked on missions to colonize the red planet. Former President Barack Obama and SpaceX founder Elon Musk feel humans could be there within a few decades. The successful launch of SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket has added to the confidence levels.

The next logical step would be to take on non-engineering problems like medical emergency responses and isolation. Some of these are already being done by cosmonauts and Astronauts in the International Space Station.

However, work related to interplanetary expeditions is being done on Earth. The test site selected in the Dhofar desert will contribute to the cause. It is replete with a wide range of sand and rocky surfaces and a topography that matches that of Mars and will be useful. The studies will conclude on 28 February.

Mars continues to beckon man

NASA had used the Mojave Desert to test rovers destined for the Red Planet and it is now the turn of the Dhofar Desert in Oman. In the opinion of Scott Hubbard who had led the U.S. space agency's Mars program, astronauts have to learn how to adapt to an alien environment on the distant planet. Mars Curiosity rover has been there for more than five years but robots are machines and will not be of much help to assess effects of the environment on human beings.

Mars One is an organization that has proposed to colonize Mars and establish a permanent human colony there by 2032. It was started by Bas Lansdorp and Arno Wielders in 2011 when they laid the foundation of their Mars One mission which would be a one-way trip. Work is in progress to select and train volunteers for this task.