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The successful mission to the ice caves at Dachstein (Austria) lies just behind us and the group is already deep into the next Mars-analog test: Mars2013. Destination: Sahara desert (Morocco).
Preparations for this 1-month long mission started already early this year, but since summer the PolAres volunteers are active like bees. February is approaching at a fast pace and much is still to be settled.
On 21-23 September, the Austrian Space Forum hosted the first analog astronaut training weekend at the PolAres Spacesuit Laboratory in Innsbruck. The length and complexity of Mars2013 calls for more people being prepared to endure the exhaustion of the Aouda.X, the spacesuit simulator designed and realized by the Austrian Space Forum. The suit is 45kg heavy, equipped with a modifiable exoskeleton to simulate different pressure regimes, biomedical and engineering telemetry and an advanced human-machine interface. In other words, a challenge for us new analog astronauts.
Together with other analog astronaut candidates, I took part in the exciting training prepared for us by the team. Some of us already have previous experience with the Aouda.X and could describe us the feeling of working with it (or “her”, as the suit was renamed after the princess Aouda from Jules Verne’s novel in 80 days around the world).
The program for the weekend was intense and included both frontal lectures and practical training. We started on Friday with some basic facts about the red planet and learned throughout the weekend about geology, planetology, spaceflight. Plus, we were given insight on the suit technology and subsystems, but details are top-secret!
The more interesting part, however, was to try the suit. I had the chance to do my first “donning” (the process of wearing the suit) with the Aouda.X. It took some time to complete the detailed checklist with an inexperienced suit tester, but eventually I was in!
The feeling was really good and we did some communication tests while I familiarized with it. The more difficult part was to handle delicate or small objects because three pairs of gloves reduce your touch sensibility to almost zero, so it takes experience and patience (but new gloves with improved performance are already on the way!).
All in all it was definitely a great time and we all already look forward to the second session at the end of October.
Luca Foresta also recorded a video message for the SpaceUp Stuttgart Unconference:
- 23.05.2019 - 01.09.2019: Exhibition: Austria in Space – a country takes off!
- 26.09.2019 - 27.09.2019: Deutsche Astrobiologie Gesellschaft - 4th annual workshop
- 04.11.2019 - 06.11.2019: European Mars Conference
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