Mars now has its own tartan thanks to Edinburgh scientist

Professor Charles Cockell has registered a design for a Mars Tartan, which one day could be seen on the Red Planet.
Professor Charles Cockell has registered a design for a Mars Tartan, which one day could be seen on the Red Planet.
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Rocket boosters, space suit, overalls, supply of dried food, emergency numbers for the International Space Station and Nasa – and of course a ­tartan scarf.

The list of essential items astronauts would need to pack for an expedition to the Red Planet, has just got longer after a leading space scientist has had his design for a Mars Exploration tartan – including a colour representing future human settlement on Mars – officially registered with the Scottish Government’s Register of Tartans.

Mars Exploration Tartan
Designed on behalf of Charles Cockell, Professor of Astrobiology, Edinburgh University.

Mars Exploration Tartan Designed on behalf of Charles Cockell, Professor of Astrobiology, Edinburgh University.

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Charles Cockell, professor of astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh, has included in the registration notes that the tartan is intended to be used during Mars science, exploration and outreach activities.

Prof Cockell, who also runs an online course about the search for alien life, said: “I’m totally enthusiastic about Mars exploration and decided it would be fun to have a tartan for future Mars exploration. I also thought it would reflect that forward-thinking scientific aspect of Scottish culture.

“The tartan could be worn by those working on Mars, any Scottish people going to Mars and on Earth by those preparing for Mars expeditions such as training in extreme environments in Antarctica.”

Prof Cockell is now assessing demand for Mars Exploration scarves.

Prof Cockell added: “My students think it’s great, but on a serious note, it is really great for us to have a tartan representing the future of Mars exploration. It shows tartan is not just an old-fashioned thing. It is also a visionary leap for Scottish culture to have it worn on Mars.”

The tartan is predominantly red for the Red Planet; the four green lines represent Mars as the fourth planet from the Sun, the presence of habitable conditions on the planet and the possible future presence of life in the form of human settlement; blue depicts its water-rich past and the presence of water, mainly as ice on the planet today; while the thick white line represents the Martian poles, which are visible from Earth.

Professor James Dunlop, head of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh, said: “While human settlement on Mars may still lie some distance in the future, it would be nice if the first settlers were wearing this tartan. Highlighting the issue in this light-­hearted way is a good way to draw space exploration to a different audience.

“It’s over 40 years since man last walked on the Moon. Mars offers the next realistic step for human exploration. It seems inevitable after the current robotic missions complete their exploration a manned Mars mission will take place within most of our lifetimes.”