The 4 spaciest places on Earth
It’s holiday season! Who doesn’t look forward to jetting off to sunny beaches and exotic locations? But imagine taking your summer vacation in space, gazing at the Earth from the International Space Station. Sound far-fetched? We really believe it’s not that far away. One day soon a trip to space could be as common as a transatlantic flight.
While we’re not quite there yet, you can still get a taste of space during your vacations. What better way to prepare for your future sub-orbital summer holiday than with our countdown of the four spaciest places on Earth?
Mauna Loa Volcano – Hawaii
The jaw-droppingly beautiful Mauna Loa, situated on Hawaii’s Big Island, is the world’s largest active volcano. It’s an easily accessible tourist destination for photographs and views – although it’ll be a two day hike if you want to reach the peak. The connection to space? Mauna Loa’s terrain is uncannily similar to Mars’. For the last few years, the volcano has been home to some unique experiments designed to simulate life on Mars. Right now, six NASA-funded researchers are housed inside an isolated geodesic dome below the volcano’s summit. Eight months spent in close quarters with others doesn’t sound like the most relaxing way to spend a holiday. So for now, let’s applaud the efforts of NASA’s pioneers – and enjoy the views of this magnificent volcano.
Atacama Desert – Chile
Picture an arid environment without a trace of greenery, covered in red sand. Nope, not Mars. We’re talking about the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, one of the driest places on Earth. It’s so otherworldly, it even has two valleys named Moon Valley and Mars Valley. And it’s the perfect place to go stargazing – the desert’s home to three major observatories. But all of this beauty comes at a price; it’s very hard for anything to survive in Atacama’s climate. Which is precisely why NASA scientists have been searching for life in this harsh environment. If life can be found here, then it could also be found on Mars.
Teide National Park – Canary Islands
Think of Tenerife and you probably think beaches, palm trees and lazy days by the pool. But if you’ve ever hiked through Teide National Park then you know different. An awe-inspiring landscape straight out of a sci-fi film, dominated by Mount Teide, the park also has a more literal space connection. In 2011 British researchers took advantage of Teide’s magical surroundings to test innovations, such as a robotic vision system, that could end up being used in future missions to Mars.
Death Valley – USA
Located in California, Death Valley’s craggy, crater-pocked terrain sure looks like an alien landscape. Despite temperatures that can top 130 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s a popular sightseeing destination. It’s also popular with NASA researchers. Death Valley was the testing ground for the Curiosity rover, the intrepid robot controlled vehicle that’s been exploring Mars’ Gale Crater since 2012. But there’s one big difference between the rover’s new home and Death Valley – the weather. Mars’ average temperature is a decidedly chilly minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit.Written by