Private astronauts

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Guest : Isolation and Survival Skills: The Right Stuff for Mars-Bound Astronauts
Polar treks can teach NASA what to look for in Mars Astronauts: Here is a tale of isolation, survival skills and mental fortitude.

By Stephen Regenold

October 13, 2010 6:30 AM

Yuta Onoda

On a stark morning last april at latitude 88 degrees north, John Huston and Tyler Fish were crossing the Arctic ice cap in a bid to become the first confirmed Americans to ski unsupported to the North Pole. The two men, both in their mid-30s, from Chicago and Ely, Minn., respectively, wore backpacks and harnesses attached to sleds laden with hundreds of pounds of gear. At 10 am, the ice opened beneath Huston’s skis, and he plunged from light into the darkness of the near-freezing water below. Huston and Fish may as well have been on the moon. Rescue was thousands of miles away, days distant. The Arctic environment—minus 10 F, snow swirling across a white void—was inhospitably numbing. Even unearthly.

In fact, desolate polar regions have long been seen as analogous to outer space. From Siberia, where Soviet cosmonauts braved teeth-cracking cold, to the Canadian Arctic, where NASA still funds fi eld research for Mars exploration, the remote reaches of Earth offer a parallel to what it might be like to endure the alien environment of a moon or planet far away.
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