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In a Rocky Israeli Crater, Scientists Simulate Life on Mars

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The Austrian consortium is running the project in collaboration with the Israel Space Agency.

Through the door of the expedition base, an autonomous rover passes a few short steps to the left. Some giant leaps to the right are an array of solar panels. The landscape is rocky, mountainous, reddish in colour. Objectively it looks like Mars.

Here, in the Ramon Crater in the desert of southern Israel, a team of six – five men and one woman – begins to simulate what it would be like to live on the Red Planet for about a month.

Their AMADEE-20 habitat is nestled beneath a rocky outcrop. Inside they sleep, eat and experiment. Outside they wear fake space suits equipped with cameras, microphones and self-contained breathing systems.

Austrian Space Director Gernot Grömer said, “We have a steep learning curve to fail fast, fail cheaply. Because whatever mistake we make here on Earth, we hope we don’t make it on Mars.” Will repeat.” Forum.

The Austrian consortium is running the project in collaboration with the Israel Space Agency and the local group D-MARS.

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A scientist participates in a demonstration of an experiment led by Austrian and Israeli agencies simulating a mission to Mars on October 10, 2021, near Mitzpe Ramon, Israel. Reuters/Aamir Cohen

Several recent Mars probes have attracted astronomy fans around the world with robotic rovers such as NASA’s Perseverance, and the helicopter Ingenuity, for the first time, offers a glimpse of the planet’s surface. But a manned mission is likely to take more than a decade.

With AMADEE-20, which was due in 2020 but was postponed due to COVID-19, the team hopes to bring new insights that will help prepare for the mission when it arrives.

“The habitat, at the moment, is the most complex, most modern analog research station on the planet,” said Gromer, standing next to the 120-square-metre (1,300 sq ft) structure the size of two large, connected yurts.

Six team members are constantly on camera, their vital signs monitored, movements inside them are monitored to analyze preferred places for congregation. All this in order to better understand the human factor, Gromer said.

Outside, other engineers and experts work with drones and rovers to improve autonomous navigation and mapping in a world where GPS is not available.

In total they will conduct more than 20 experiments in fields including geology, biology and medicine and hope to publish some of the results when they are finished.

“We’re six people working in a tight space under a lot of pressure to do a lot of tests. There are bound to be challenges,” said Elon Tenzer, 36, wearing the space suit, which weighs about 50 kilograms (110 pounds). of weight. Device. “But I have confidence in our crew that we have been able to overcome those challenges.”

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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