Scientists plan to drive the Northwest Passage

Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:57pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Scientists preparing for the exploration of Mars are planning history's first car drive through the fabled Northwest Passage, a trip they said on Friday will provide data on global warming and man's potential impact on other planets.

The trip using a modified armored Humvee vehicle will provide comprehensive data about the thickness of winter ice in the waterway through Canada's high Arctic, said Pascal Lee, chairman of Mars Institute and leader of the expedition.

The scientists also hope to learn more about what happens to the microbes left behind by humans as they explore remote areas, amid concerns from some scientists about the detrimental impact of such journeys in space.

"It's not just about protecting men from Mars. It's also about protecting Mars from men," Lee said in an interview.

Long sought as a faster route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Northwest Passage was first traversed by ship in 1906 by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, a trip that took three years to complete.

Failed attempts to travel the passage include that of Sir John Franklin, who with his crew of 128 died in 1845 after becoming stuck in the ice.

This 1,000-mile trip, if successful, would mark the first time a land vehicle crossed the passage, the researchers said a Vancouver news conference.


<p>Members of an expedition into Canada's north pose with their vehicle in Vancouver, British Columbia March 13, 2009. Team members are (L to R) Jesse Weaver, John Schutt, Dr. Pascal Lee, Kira Lorber and Dr. Stephen Braham. The scientists, who normally study the exploration of Mars, are planning the first ever land vehicle crossing of the fabled Northwest Passage. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>