Project Background

The Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) is an international interdisciplinary field research project centered on the scientific study of the Haughton impact structure and surrounding terrain, Devon Island, High Arctic, viewed as a terrestrial analog for the Mars.

The rocky polar desert setting, geologic features and biological attributes of the site offer unique insights into the possible evolution of Mars – in particular the history of water and of past climates on Mars – the effects of impacts on Earth and on other planets, and the possibilities and limits of life in extreme environments.

In parallel with its Science program, the HMP supports an Exploration program aimed at developing new technologies, strategies, humans factors experience, and field-based operational know-how key to planning the future exploration of the Moon, Mars and other planets by robots and humans.

Looking east into Haughton Crater from Haynes Ridge.

The HMP is managed and operated by the Mars Institute with support from the SETI Institute. HMP-2008 is our 12th field season.

Mars Analogs

Terrestrial analogs for Mars are settings on Earth, indoors or outdoors, where environmental conditions, geologic features, biological attributes, or combinations thereof offer opportunities for comparisons with possible counterparts on Mars and for partial simulations of martian conditions.

Haughton Crater, Devon Island, Nunavut

No place on Earth is truly like Mars. Although Mars can be characterized at present as a cold desert, not even the polar deserts of the Earth achieve the extremes in minimum temperature, dryness, low atmospheric pressure and harsh radiation conditions that the surface of Mars currently experiences. Many aspects of the geologic and potential biologic evolution of Mars are likely to have been different or remain uncertain enough that any comparison with the Earth must be conducted with caution. The Earth, however, is our home planet and a world presenting a broad diversity of environments, geologic features and biology. It provides an important reference for studying other planets, a basis for conducting comparative studies critically. "Mars analogs", therefore, are not to be equated to any counterpart on Mars, but are to be viewed instead as an opportunity on our planet for possible approximations.