Human missions to the red planet could follow in the path of the Curiosity rover (above) as soon as 2033. Photograph: Alamy
Wanted: smart, fit and unflappable applicants for humanity’s first mission to Mars. Must have: crazy wig, oversized boots and a big red nose.It is enough to make Neil Armstrong spin in his grave, but researchers have found that the success of a future mission to the red planet may depend on the ship having a class clown.
Rather than the cool personality that underpinned the Right Stuff in the Apollo era, future astronauts may need to prove they have something very different: the Silly Stuff. An onboard comedian is a proven way to unite teams in stressful situations, research shows.
“These are people that have the ability to pull everyone together, bridge gaps when tensions appear and really boost morale,” said Jeffrey Johnson, an anthropologist at the University of Florida.
“When you’re living with others in a confined space for a long period of time, such as on a mission to Mars, tensions are likely to fray. It’s vital you have somebody who can help everyone get along, so they can do their jobs and get there and back safely.
Congratulations if you said Wood Buffalo National Park, located in north-eastern Alberta and southern Northwest Territories.
Established in 1922 to help protect northern Canada’s last remaining bison herds, today the 44,807-square-kilometre park – bigger than Switzerland – is regarded as an outstanding example of the country’s northern boreal plains.
The park is the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve – which means this just might be the most star-filled sky you ever see in your life.
It is also a great place to view the cosmic fireworks known as the aurora borealis – the northern lights.
The Milky Way rises over flooded salt lakes near Beacon, Western Australia.
This week’s AG Reader Photo was taken by Kylie Gee south of Beacon, Western Australia.
“This is an image I captured at 2.24am on Saturday, 21 March 2015 during a New Moon phase over the salt lakes south of Beacon in the north-eastern central wheatbelt of Western Australia,” says Kylie.
“We have amazing skies out here and none more so than during a time when there is no Moon – it’s really extraordinary how clear and bright the Milky Way is.
I had passed these salt lakes several times and thought they would look fantastic with the Milky Way rising so waited until the Moon phase was right, set my alarm and headed out. I was not disappointed – it was simply stunning.