SUNDAY 11 NOVEMBER 2001, 23:00 hrs

Brisbane, Queensland
Jason Hoogland

The Jarntimarra-1 expedition was an extremely satisfying success. With the team returning to Adelaide yesterday from Arkaroola, the level of enthusiasm surpassed that displayed even when it left the South Australian Museum two weeks earlier, despite the gruelling schedule and difficult conditions. A number of immediate outcomes have been achieved.

First, we have inspired a core of scientific and engineering talent that will more rapidly advance our goals. A number of team members were only broadly familiar with the MSA technical programme and that of our international colleagues. Several expressed real surprise at the breadth, importance and feasibility of our vision and their excitement gives me confidence we now have a core of local talent that having met face to face, understands the challenges and will go forth as champions of our vision.

Second, the team in fact contributed to this vision. Whilst at Arkaroola, it engaged in a series of intensive workshops to map out a more detailed plan for MSA technical activities over the coming years. This was also a wonderful demonstration of collegiate-style debate and discussion leading to collective ownership that will give rise to a more robust and ultimately more successful technical programme.

Third, the team developed a preliminary science and engineering plan for Operation Red Centre (ORC), in which Mars-Oz will be a centre-piece.

Finally, the team identified three regions with strong potential for use as analogue research stages - Arkaringa near Coober Pedy, the Woomera area and the Arkaroola region. A press release will contain more details, but some time soon I'll explain why and how one of these localities has been chosen for the first ORC activities in 2002 or 2003.

Overall, JNT-1 achieved and exceeded all our objectives and our next step is to consolidate the huge steps taken, recruit talent into our projects and, most important of all, raise the financial and in-kind support needed to see ORC to fruition with all its hardware elements. We now have the capability to undertake genuinely world class research that will advance our understanding of Mars and better prepare us for human missions to the Red Planet - all we need now is the support to make it happen.