Welcome to Mars on Earth

We already know the radiation levels on Mars' surface are safe enough for us to go ahead and start building vacation homes. But, before we can finish our plans for the pool, there are still a few more tests that need to be done. There's just one problem: the planet has a way of destroying all of the scientific equipment we send to check it out. (If we're pointing fingers, mostly because of the magnetized dust on its surface.) Rather than send another rover to be demolished far away from home, Madrid's Center for Astrobiology thinks they've created a way to test out every robotic arm and camera while they're still on Earth using a device called MARTE.

The chamber can recreate Mars' unique atmosphere, including temperature, wind speeds and pressure, gases and even that troublemaker dust. The device is set to be used for the first time to test a weather station for NASA's InSight mission, set to launch in 2016. The goal is to have earth-bound testing help pinpoint problems early, and create stronger, more weather-resistant equipment. All that means we'll be one step closer to a (pressurized) cabin getaway on the billion-year-old beaches of the red planet's dried-up lake.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech