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Antarctica is one of the most hostile places on Earth to live. No food; unbelievable temperatures; a hole in the ozone layer allowing in abnormal amounts of radiation.
The perfect place to try out a non-earthly colony.
This would be similar to the 'Biosphere 2' project, but on a grander scale.
Prototypes of lunar and martian colonies could be sent here, and via remote control, we could test our designs.
From a ship nearby (with an emergency hospital just in case something goes wrong), the 'lander' is launched. The 'astronauts' have been in the lander, isolated aside from mock-radio broadcasts, for one to six months (depending on if it is a lunar or martian mission being tested). Now, they have to take the robotically-built station, and get it in some condition fit for human habitation.
The costs for this 'dry run' will be great -- but not as great as sending a dozen lives to another planet, only to have to see them die due to an easily preventable, but overlooked problem.
Overview of the Neumayer Antarctic Research Station
Described as two, 8 ft diameter steel tubes, 90 ft long, in which are housed separate containers for living quarters and work facilities. Except for the steel part, this already reads like the description of a space station. [Tiger Lily, Oct 04 2004]
(?) Mars Society's Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station
[waugsqueke, Oct 04 2004]
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||Ever been to Biosphere II? They spent a lot of money getting that one right, and it wasn't exactly what you'd call a smashing success. When I went, I was amused to find the place where the ants got in and out.
||The book Red Mars had something like this. I can't remeber if it actually had a sealed enviroment or if it was just for psycological testing of the colonists though so I'm slightly reluctant to call this previously halfbaked.
||Baked by Robert Zubrin and the Mars Society. They've been doing this off and on since 1999, on Devon Island in Canada's Arctic, though, not Antarctica. (link)
||//No spiders in Antartica//
||I saw on The Discovery Channel the other day that there are rats in antartica. I wonder how those bloody oportunists can manage to live there...