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Mars Comes To Earth: Israel Crater Turns Into Perfect Red Planet Base For Training Astronauts
NASA and other space agencies across the world have their eyes beyond the Moon - looking straight at Mars. While NASA has an ambitious mission lined up to send humans to Mars, the Austrian Space Forum has brought Mars right to Earth! The space agency has established a pretend Martian base with the Israeli space agency at Makhtesh Ramon.
Mars On Earth
One can find a large crater in Israel's sun-baked Negev desert - which is now turned into a landscape that mimics Martian land. One can even find participants training in space suits to get an experience of how it might actually be when you land on Mars. The Austrian Space Forum has setup a Martian landscape that is 1,600 feet (500m) deep, 25 miles (40km) wide crater.
Here, six participants from Austria, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain underwent tough physical and psychological tests. The analog astronauts will live in isolation in this Martian landscape in the virtual station until the end of the month.
In the Ramon Crater in the desert of southern Israel, a team of six - five men and one woman - have begun simulating what it will be like to live for about a month on Mars. More photos: https://t.co/sATLGEHIBt 📷 Amir Cohen pic.twitter.com/aeyLGMIsc9— Reuters Pictures (@reuterspictures) October 12, 2021
"The group's cohesion and their ability to work together are crucial for surviving on Mars," said Gernot Groemer, the Austrian mission supervisor. "It's like a marriage, except in a marriage you can leave but on Mars, you can't," they added.
And like real astronauts in space, they too will conduct tests in the manmade Martian landscape. The tests include a drone prototype that functions without GPS. They will also have access to the automated wind- and solar-powered mapping vehicles. Plus, they will study human behavior and the effect of isolation on astronauts.
German astronaut Anika Mehlis is presently the only woman on the team. In a statement to AFP, she said she was happy to be part of the project. "My father took me to the space museum when I was little. When I saw that the forum was looking for analog astronauts, I told myself I had to apply." As a microbiologist, she will be studying where a scenario when an Earth bacteria would infect potential life forms that may be found on Mars.
Martian Landscape On Earth
To note, The Austrian Space Forum is a private organization that includes aerospace specialists. The agency has conducted 12 missions so far, the most recent being in Oman in 2018. In fact, the Mars on Earth project in Israel is part of the mission Amadee-20. This was to kick off in 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As mentioned earlier, The Austrian Space Forum has joined hands with Israeli research center D-MARS to construct the solar-powered base. The crater chosen in the Negev desert perfectly resembles Mars. It's got stony wilderness, a large scape of red hues, and more. Luckily, the temperature is suitable for Earth life, which isn't the case on Mars.
NASA Mars Mission: What To Expect?
Presently, NASA aims to head out to Mars in 2030 in one of the most ambitious missions. Here, NASA aims to send the second man and the first woman to the Moon shortly to explore more of the Moon water ice. NASA hopes this can be used as fuel to head out to Mars and beyond.
With the new Mars setup on Earth, the real Mars mission might happen soon than we think. Groemer further adds, "I believe the very first human to walk on Mars is already born and we are the ship-builders to enable this journey."