To prepare for Mars, NASA travels to Iceland

In preparation for a 2020 mission to Mars, NASA is pretending Iceland is the Red Planet.

Scientists from NASA are assessing that country’s sediments, glaciers, river systems and other features, which are similar to environments on Mars.

The team — and its robotic rover— returned to the U.S. in late July and will travel again to Iceland in 2020. The trips help NASA’s quest to study Mars.

The U.S. space agency plans to send a new robotic rover to Mars in 2020 to tackle such questions as whether the Red Planet has the potential to sustain life. Lessons from that trip are expected to help NASA send humans to Mars in the 2030s.

Texas A&M associate professor of geology Ryan Ewing led the team that went in July. It included researchers from NASA’s Johnson Space Center and U.S. universities such as Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as from Reykjavik University in Iceland.

Scientists from Mission Control Space Services Inc., a Canadian company that is a project partner, also traveled to Iceland and tested a Mars rover prototype named SAND-E (Semi-Autonomous Navigation for Detrital Environments).