Commander Marvin Martin has scours space for signs of life each April Fools, and now is planning an Earthwatch quest to Mars.
Why journey to Mars?
Like lots of kids, I was fascinated by the stars and the prospect of life on other planets. Mars is particularly intriguing because the evidence suggests it could have sustained life billions of years ago, and I’ve been itching to get up there and take a closer look to see if any traces of that life might remain. Also, to be honest, I just love the outfit. I have a whole wardrobe full of spacesuits with all these cool features, helmets made of the same stuff they make bulletproof glass out of—does anyone get to wear better stuff to work? I don’t think so. It’s also pretty fun to make my cat, wear the space helmet.
Now that I'm finally leading Searching for Life on Mars with citizen scientists from Earthwatch, all the stars have aligned.
A memorable moment in the field:
I’ve done a lot of research over tough terrain in strange gravity—Mars, for example, has 38% of the gravity of Earth, so a person who weighs 100 pounds on Earth only weighs 38 on Mars. Once, I was working on Phobos, and I tried to reach an interesting-looking mineral sample off the rim of the Stickney Crater. I slipped in the loose soil and fell straight in, and gently bounced all the way down to the bottom. It was sort of cool, because I was sitting in a crater nobody had ever gone into before. But obviously I didn’t want to be stuck there forever. Luckily I had a satellite radio—safety first—and called some of my research buddies over to throw me a rope and haul me out as I walked up the side of the crater. Getting out took a lot longer than falling in did! Now the research team likes to say I’m the first person to rock-climb in space.