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Mars On Earth

Visitors to the desolate valleys of Antarctica always notice the silence, according to Tufts chemist Sam Kounaves, who sojourned there this winter. Whenever the winds die down, he says, “it becomes eerie.” And if he needed further reminders that he was a mere speck of humanity on a rock hurtling through space, he could always contemplate his mission: he and five other scientists were there because the arid terrain is a good stand-in for Mars. They were testing instruments that will analyze Martian soil to determine if the Red Planet has ever supported life (see “Mars Calling,” Fall 2007). Meanwhile, duplicate instruments were traveling aboard the Phoenix Mars Lander, scheduled to touch down on May 25. The flecks of color in the distance are tents.

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