‘This is a spectacular place for us’, NASA scientists preparing for Mars...in Timmins

BY Lydia Chubak, CTV Northern Ontario, Original link: http://northernontario.ctvnews.ca/this-is-a-spectacular-place-for-us-nasa-scientists-preparing-for-mars-in-timmins-1.3540670

NASA is using the Northern Ontario landscape to train and run experiments for a mission to Mars.

Two NASA scientists are in Timmins right now to study the local rocks. 

Pablo Sobran and Adrian Brown are examining rocks over two billion years old.

"We're in Timmins to try and check out the rocks because we just think the rocks here in Timmins are so similar to what we see on Mars," said Brown

"We're excited about the rocks we found here," added Sobran.

"They even look more like some places on Mars than we thought before coming here, so scientifically this is a spectacular place for us."

Sobran invented the technology and tools used test the rocks, while Brown interprets the information and reports back to NASA headquarters.

The research scientists have been working in Timmins for the past week and they are quite excited about what they've learned through their research in the city's east end.

Carbonate is the main mineral found in the rocks they've looked and it also exists in rocks found on Mars. 

"When we first found carbonate a couple years ago on Mars we were really mystified as to how it got there. Usually when we find big carbonates here on earth they usually indicate things like life," said Brown.

NASA is planning a Mars 2020 rover mission three summers from now, where NASA researchers will eventually drill to collect core samples of rocks and soils.

"We're here to try to test out our instruments we're going to send on those rovers, to see what we can find out about these rocks in advance of our trip to Mars," Brown said.

Even after the Mars 2020 rover mission is done, the researchers think they'll have to come back to Timmins to answer the questions that arise from what they learn in space.