Space agencies are preparing for future missions to Mars by conducting space simulation missions here on Earth.
In the latest example, the Israeli Space Agency and the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) sent six “analog astronauts,” five men and a woman, to a fake habitat on Mars, where they will spend the rest of the month as if they were on a red planet, report from The independent reveals.
The mission starts on October 11 and will end on October 31. During this time, all communication will be delayed to “simulate the propagation time of the signal between Earth and Mars,” explained OeWF Director Dr. Gernot Grömer.
The mission, called AMADEE-20, will take place at D-Mars’ analog habitat on Mars in Israel’s Negev Desert and will be managed through “mission control” at the Austrian Space Forum, also known as the OeWF. The D-Mars habitat is designed to mimic real-world ground segment projects currently being considered for future Mars missions. Any communication between “analogue astronauts” will be delayed by 10 minutes to simulate a real lag in communication experienced by NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN), connecting Earth to Mars.
The team of analogue astronauts, made up of international volunteers from Austria, Germany, Israel, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, will carry a “complex prototype spacesuit” every time they go beyond the simulated space habitat, press release from the Austrian Space Forum explains. The suit, which weighs 45 kg (99 pounds), is designed to block movement and features medical telemetry to make it as faithful as possible to the spacesuits provided for Mars. Analog space researchers will be asked to look for weaknesses in these costumes to help improve the design for future missions.
Testing future space procedures
During the mission, which is also referred to as the isolation phase in the OeWF statement, analogue astronauts will conduct tests according to procedures developed by the European Space Agency (ESA). These include a method of protecting devices from space dust, which can be extremely harmful to machines as well as the health of astronauts. A 3D printer will also be tested to determine the possibility of future space missions.
In a statement to the Austrian Space Forum, OeWF Director Dr Gernot Grömer said: “This is our first mission in which our analogue astronauts will live and work completely independently in their habitat for three weeks. A small on-site support team will be available for technical assistance issues and support, but will not be allowed to interact with analog astronauts. ”
This is not the first mission to simulate space conditions on Earth and will probably not be the last, as NASA and other space agencies are preparing back to the moon and to Mars over the next two decades. In August, for example, NASA announced that it was looking for volunteers to spend a year in a simulated habitat on Mars at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, beginning in the fall of 2022. Such missions will provide invaluable data on the effects of isolation in space, as well as the logistics and machinery needed for future missions to Mars.