We are keeping on with the theme of geology. This time we are going to discuss the Moon landscape of Iceland. And the Mars landscape of Iceland. It’s both!
NASA in Iceland
NASA has known for decades that Iceland is the most Moon-like place on Earth. In fact, back in the 1960s, the astronauts that went to be the first human beings to touch the ground on the Moon practised in Iceland.
Iceland’s basaltic rock is as close as you get to Moon-rocks on Earth. It was not only Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin that came to Iceland to practise. In total there were 32 astronauts sent to Iceland for planetary analog campaigns. These campaigns allow NASA to test their equipment and procedures.
Mars Rover 2019
In July 2019, Iceland was chosen again as a testing ground for NASA. In this case, though, they were not thinking about the Moon at all, but the Red Planet – Mars. NASA camped out near Langjökull glacier, the second biggest glacier in Europe.
They needed to test how the rover would fare on the far-away planet and realised that Iceland’s nature, was yet again the best place for tests.
The area NASA chose was believed to look like many of possible landing sites on Mars. And why does Iceland fit the bill? Why does Iceland look like Mars? It is due to melting snow, ice and glaciers changing the compositions of rocks and sediments.
The Mars mission will launch in July this year if everything goes to plan. The rover will also carry a small helicopter to see if flights are viable on the planet. It’s all very fascinating and to know that without Iceland, this would not have been as viable as it is right now.
In conclusion; Iceland’s unique landscape and nature, formed over millions of years of glacial and volcanic activity, makes it look a bit like other planets and moons in our solar system. At least close enough for NASA to come and play around. Making Icelanders incredibly proud, of course!