May 26th, 2020

Intersections between lunar, Antarctic exploration


By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on July 18, 2019.

Gina Schopfer

and Austin Mardon

As the Apollo mission reaches its 50th anniversary, return expeditions are underway. Exploration of the moon mirrors past explorations on Earth, says David Parker, director of human and robotic exploration for the European Space Agency.

“The timetable of the exploration of Antarctica mirrors that of the moon in an uncannily close manner. At the beginning of the century, there was a race to reach the South Pole and then no one went back for 50 years – just like the moon in the ’60s. Then we started building bases in Antarctica. We are now approaching that stage with our exploitation of the moon.” – Parker

Space and Antarctic exploration are more connected than one might think; there have been over 30,000 lunar meteorites uncovered in Antarctica. “I came up with idea of finding meteorites using cameras as a student in geography at the University of Lethbridge,” says Austin Mardon. In 1986, Mardon recovered meteorites near Lewis Cliff, 170 kilometres from the South Pole, on an Antarctic expedition sponsored by NASA and the NSF. The team found over 700 meteorites including one lunar meteorite Mardon discovered while urinating in the snow. It’s safe to say that lunar exploration shouldn’t be the only area of focus.

Antarctic expeditions have uncovered incredible amounts of information about our planet and the effects of climate change. To Mardon, there is still much to be discovered, and Canada should make greater contributions toward studies to uncover more information intersecting the moon and the Antarctic. Mardon recalls being told while in a tent in Antarctica that if the Apollo mission had gone differently, they could’ve been on a space expedition rather than uncovering space material. He has written about the importance of placing a doomsday archive on the moon containing samples of necessary crop seeds and a digital archive of the world’s data, to help.

The darkest, coldest areas of the moon show evidence of water ice inside craters near its poles, making this resource easier to access than water below the moon’s surface. This reaffirms the necessity of exploration, though it’s not risk-free. The treacherous conditions of the Antarctic expedition left Mardon’s feet in constant pain from frostbite and he uses a cane since his return. The greatest challenge was integration back into society. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 30. Mental health is impacted through the harsh conditions of both space and Antarctic exploration; Buzz Aldrin suffered from bipolar disorder and depression upon his return to Earth. “It’s like you’re flying so high that no one understands what you’re talking about,” says Mardon.

Mardon’s diagnoses hasn’t stopped him; he has found success through his books, teachings, and advocacy. He has been awarded the Order of Canada and numerous other awards, was inducted into the of the International Academy of Astronautics, and has published a book discussing his Antarctic expedition titled: “The Taste of Frozen Tears: My Antarctic Walkabout.”

Gina Schopfer is a MacEwan University alumnus, a freelance writer, and a researcher and writer for the Antarctic Institute of Canada. Austin Mardon, a member of the Royal Society of Canada, received the Order of Canada in 2007. You can read about his experiences at lulu.com.

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  1. […] Herald – Intersections between lunar, Antarctic exploration — This op/ed was submitted by Gina Schopher and Austin Mardon. Schoper is a MacEwan alum who […]