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Mars mission blasts off in Pilbara
WA News Mars mission blasts off in Pilbara

One giant leap was taken for mankind in the Pilbara this week when NASA scientists tested spacesuits and technology designed to be used on Mars.

US space buffs from NASA's California research centre joined their WA counterparts from Mars Society Australia to study the Mars-esque environment in the North West.

Volunteers were put through their paces in a prototype spacesuit designed to help simulate tasks, such as bending to pick up rocks, which astronauts would have to undertake on the red planet.

"The volunteers found the suit clumsy and difficult," said Dr Jon Clarke, of MSA, which has worked with NASA to launch the expedition.

"It took volunteers over half an hour to put on and was uncomfortable because it lacked the cooling elements of an actual spacesuit to be used."

NASA planetary scientist Chris McKay, who will remotely control a rover space vehicle on a Mars mission next year, joined the group in the Pilbara.

He said the trip would give him a sense of how the rover would react on the Martian surface.

Scientists say the Pilbara expedition, which took in Nullagine, North Pole, near Marble Bar, Port Hedland and Karratha, will help in the search and understanding of possible life on Mars.

"The rocks in the Pilbara are some of the oldest and best preserved on Earth," Dr Clarke said.

"The surfaces of the Pilbara and Mars were probably very similar 3.5 million years ago.

"If there was life here in the Pilbara then, there may very well have been life on Mars."