Press Release

MARS-1 Humvee Rover Reaches Devon Island After Successful Crossing of Frozen Arctic Sea

By SpaceRef Editor
May 20, 2003
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MARS-1 Humvee Rover Reaches Devon Island After Successful Crossing of Frozen Arctic Sea
Mars Institute's MARS-1 Rover

NOTE to Editors: Additional information on the MARS-1 rover, this expedition, and photos are available from this page:

Mountain View, CA, – The Mars Institute today announced that its MARS-1 Humvee rover has reached Devon Island in the Canadian high Arctic after successfully crossing the Wellington Channel, a 23 mile (37 km) stretch of treacherous sea ice separating Cornwallis Island from Devon Island at 75°N. The vehicle was driven and escorted by a team of four expeditioners led by Dr Pascal Lee, Project Lead for the NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) and Chairman of the Mars Institute.

“We are very happy everything went well,” said Lee. The successful arrival of the rover on Devon Island represents an important milestone in the research effort Lee and his colleagues on the HMP have developed in the Arctic since 1997. “The MARS-1 Humvee rover is a powerful new tool for our scientific investigations on Devon. It will serve as a long-distance roving field lab and will also allow us to study the design and operation of future large pressurized rovers for the human exploration of the Moon and Mars”.

The distinctive orange MARS-1 Humvee rover is a unique experimental field exploration vehicle modified for the HMP by AM General, manufacturer of the famous High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) or Humvee. The refurbished four-wheel-drive all-terrain rover rolled out of AM General’s plant in Mishiwaka, Indiana, on May 14, 2002, bearing the one-of-a-kind serial number “MARS-1”. The vehicle configuration is based on a military ambulance HMMWV. To increase traction and tread lightly, the MARS-1 is equipped with wide tracks manufactured by Mattracks, Inc. The MARS-1 reached Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island, high Arctic, the starting point of the expedition, on a C-130 transport plane of the United States Marine Corps.

“This rover will be a mobile all-terrain laboratory from which we will be able to access and deliver data as we go about our scientific field work on Devon Island. From that experience, we’ll learn how to do the same thing for planetary exploration” said Dr. Stephen Braham of Simon Fraser University (SFU), Vancouver, British Columbia, Chief Field Engineer and Canadian Principal Investigator for the HMP. Dr. Braham will lead a Canadian Space Agency (CSA) funded research program under the SFU-led MarsCanada CSA Support Study, totaling C$272,000, to develop the advanced power, computing, and communications systems for MARS-1, as a study of the technologies required for future robotic and crewed Mars rovers.

In addition to Lee who has spent five summers and a winter in Antarctica and was leading his eighth Arctic expedition, the team of four in the successful crossing comprised Mr. John W. Schutt, a veteran field guide of over thirty Arctic and Antarctic scientific research expeditions, and Mr. Joe Amarualik and Mr. Paul Amagoalik, two Inuit residents of Resolute Bay and highly experienced experts in Arctic land and sea travel working as a two-brother team. Joe Amarualik is a Master Corporal in the Resolute Bay Patrol of the Canadian Rangers, and Paul Amagoalik an expert in Arctic resources.

The team left Resolute Bay at 9:30 pm CDT on May 10, 2003, driving the MARS-1 and three snowmobiles with traditional Inuit komatik sleds on tow. After a 6-hour overland traverse under the midnight sun, they reached Read Bay on the east coast of Cornwallis Island (75°02’N, 94°36’W) and rested for the “night” inside the rover. The next day, May 11 at 3:30 pm CDT, the 8800 lb (4 metric ton) MARS-1 ventured onto the rugged sea ice off Read Bay, only to touch land again 3.5 hours later 23 miles (35 km) to the East, at Cape McBain, on the west coast of Devon Island (75°04’N, 92°13’W). The rover was driven in shifts by Lee and Schutt, both of whom received formal training in the operation and maintenance of military Humvees at the AM General plant prior to this Arctic trek.

“Things have come a long way since the ill-fated Franklin Expedition explored this area in the 1840s in search of the Northwest Passage. We planned our expedition carefully, but the Arctic remains an unforgiving environment and there was always some concern that disaster might befall us as well” said Schutt who, when not in the Arctic with the NASA HMP, is chief field guide for the National Science Foundation Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program. A geologist and experienced ice expert, Schutt was a member of the team that recovered the now-famous ALH84001 meteorite thought by some scientists to contain possible evidence of past life on Mars.

About the NASA Haughton-Mars Project

The NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) is an international interdisciplinary field research project centered on the scientific study of the Haughton impact crater and surrounding terrain, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canadian high Arctic, viewed as a possible analog for Mars. The rocky polar desert setting, geologic features and biological attributes of the site offer unique insights into the evolution of Mars, the effects of impacts on Earth and other planets, and the possibilities of life in extreme environments. In parallel with its Science program, the HMP runs an Exploration program investigating technologies, strategies and human factors relevant to the future exploration of the Moon and Mars by both robots and humans. The MARS-1 Humvee rover is an element of the Mars Institute’s participation in the HMP’s Science and Exploration programs. Overall management of the HMP is provided by the SETI Institute ( Additional information on the NASA HMP can be found at:

About AM General

Additional information on AM General can be found at

AM General Press contact:
Craig MacNab,
Tel: +1 (574) 284-2929

About the Canadian Space Agency

Established in 1989 with its headquarters situated in Saint-Hubert, Quebec,
the Canadian Space Agency coordinates all aspects of the Canadian Space
Program. Through its Space Knowledge, Applications and Industry Development
business line, the CSA delivers services involving: Earth and the
Environment; Space Science; Human Presence in Space; Satellite
Communications; Space Technology; Space Qualification Services; Space
Awareness and Education. The Canadian Space Agency is at the forefront of
the development and application of space knowledge for the benefit of
Canadians and humanity.

À propos de l’Agence spatiale canadienne

Créée en 1989, l’Agence spatiale canadienne, dont le siège social est situé
à Saint-Hubert, au Québec, coordonne tous les aspects du Programme spatial
canadien. Par l’entremise de son secteur d’activité unique axé sur la
connaissance de l’espace, les applications spatiales et le développement
industriel, l’ASC assure la prestation de services dans les domaines
suivants : Terre et environnement, Sciences spatiales, Présence humaine dans
l’espace, Télécommunications par satellites, Technologie spatiale, Services
de qualification spatiale, Sensibilisation de la jeunesse et éducation.
L’Agence spatiale canadienne se veut à l’avant-garde du développement et de
l’application des connaissances spatiales pour le mieux-être des Canadiens
et de l’humanité.

About the Mars Institute

The Mars Institute is a non-profit public benefit corporation registered and incorporated in both the United States and Canada whose purpose is to further the scientific study, exploration, and public understanding of Mars. The Institute:

  • Develops, implements and supports high quality peer-reviewed scientific research about the planet Mars, its present nature, and its climatic, geologic and possibly biologic evolution, including through analog studies (investigations of similarities and differences between the Earth, Mars and other planets);
  • Analyzes, develops and implements concepts, technologies and strategies for the exploration of Mars, by robotic systems and humans;
  • Informs the public on the results, progress, and benefits to humankind of Mars exploration through the development and implementation of educational and public outreach activities.

For more information, please contact:

Marc Boucher, CEO (Email)
Mars Institute
Tel.: +1 (250) 380-4614

SpaceRef staff editor.