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At first glance analogue research is a dreadful word. It sounds like analogue TV and a little out-dated. But that’s not the case, on the contrary. In order to understand what the term “analogue research” really means we have to ask ourselves what the word analogue implies. In ancient Greek “analogia” stands for similarity or alikeness and with this translation we have got the core of the secret. Those who conduct analogue research in the context of Mars, look for similarities between Earth and the red planet.
The basic principle is the following: Someday, when humans will set off to Mars many uncertainties and eventualities have to be cleared up. We have to know what we are doing – as far as it is possible in an endeavor such as this. Surprisingly, many things that are connected with the dream of a journey to Mars can be tested on Earth. And that is what we are doing – for particiular aspects – in places that resemble Mars – a Mars analogue site.
It is not hard to guess what a place like this should provide. Most likely a lot of people will think about red sand, a desert like landscape and the absence of any vegetation and life (although that is almost impossible on Earth). An area that just resembles Mars visually only covers part of the analogue requirements – most notably the psychological aspects (one feels like on Mars, because it looks like Mars!). However, there are many places that feature other Mars characteristics: geologically interesting formations, strong temperature variations, remoteness and extreme aridity (for example in the dry valleys of the west Antarctic). Even up in the air on Earth one can feel like down on Mars: The Austrian Space Forum’s stratospheric balloons with the production-model name “Passepartout” venture into heights greater than 30,000 meters, where Mars like atmospheric conditions dominate: a very low air pressure and extreme cold.
Depending on the requirements of the test program the place on Earth with the most similarities to Mars is chosen. On this site research and tests can be performed as realistic as possible. The Austrian Space Forum has selected the Rio Tinto region in the south-west of Spain as the place for the first expedition and field test of the analogue Mars spacesuit Aouda and the rover Phileas. The area is ideal for the 5 day long simulation of a Mars expedition.
The only thing Earth cannot provide: the perfect analogue site. Because the only place where everything is 100% Mars like, is Mars itself…
This article is available in: German
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