NASA scientists have found Death Valley National Park, situated near the California-Nevada border, to be an ideal location for research due to its extreme weather conditions and barren landscape.
The park is known for having the highest temperatures on Earth, with summer temperatures reaching up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, and is also the driest place in North America with an average rainfall of fewer than 2 inches.
Researchers have used the park’s harsh conditions and Mars-like landscape to study the Red Planet.
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Mars, which resembled Death Valley National Park 3 billion years ago, has helped scientists test gear, equipment, and hypotheses related to Martian missions.
For instance, NASA tested the Lander Vision System (LVS) at the park in May 2019, which helped guide Perseverance to a safe landing on Mars.
Apart from equipment testing, scientists have also studied Death Valley National Park’s terrain to better understand the topography of Mars.
The park’s topographical features, which are exposed due to a lack of vegetation, have been studied in detail, including river or alluvial fans.
These fans were formed by water flowing out of a canyon and spreading sediment in a triangular or fan-like shape as it flowed down a steep hill.
NASA scientists have compared this erosion and sediment movement to those that formed river fans in the Gale Crater on Mars.
Other distinctive features of Death Valley National Park that have been studied by scientists include the Ubehebe Crater, a 600-foot-deep volcanic crater, and Mars Hill, which has basalt boulders that remain from the valley’s volcanic past.