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One of the key elements of equipment for a future human expedition to Mars will be a spacesuit that allows astronauts to roam the Martian surface. As part of WSW 2013 activities coordinated the OeWF’s from Mission Control Centre in Innsbruck, for the first time ever, three Mars analogue suit development teams around the world have performed simultaneous experiments. The experiments are a first step in developing a universal standard for comparing Mars analogue suits in terms of the impact they have on the agility and dexterity of the suit wearers.
The ‘World Space Walk 2013’ coordinated tests took place on Tuesday 8th October as a highlight of World Space Week 2013, which this year has the theme of ‘Exploring Mars, Discovering Earth’. The tests were designed and led by the Austrian Space Forum, which also provided the Mission Control Centre for the campaign. The spacesuit experiments were carried out by teams in Innsbruck, North Dakota and Utah, with additional support from France.
Explorers on the surface of Mars will face a cold, dusty environment with a thin atmosphere of mainly carbon dioxide. Away from any settlement on an Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA), they will need to rely on their spacesuit to provide oxygen to breathe and a comfortable temperature, pressure and atmosphere in which to work.
The ‘World Space Walk’ spacesuit testers performed agility and mobility tasks wearing: the Aouda.X suit developed by the Austrian Space Forum in Innsbruck, Austria; the NDX-2 suit developed by the Human Spaceflight Laboratory of the University of North Dakota, USA; analogue suits at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), Utah, USA.
The World Space Walk suit testers performed the following three experimental activities wearing their Mars analogue spacesuits:
1) Complete an obstacle course. Erect a tripod. Mount a gnomon (sundial) on tripod.
2) Complete an obstacle course. Take a camera from the spacesuit’s pocket. Take pictures of feet and horizon pointing north, south, east and west.
3) Complete an obstacle course. Take out a sample bag, collect a rock sample and place in the bag. Label the sample bag and place in container.
Gernot Groemer, the President of the Austrian Space Forum explained, “If we are going to prepare for a human mission to Mars in the future, we need to have as much knowledge as possible on the practicalities and limitations of working in spacesuits on planetary terrains. For World Space Walk 2013, we have had the amazing opportunity to work with four different teams who are developing spacesuits and to collaborate on the same set of tasks. This technical test is a simple, yet important, first milestone to compare different analogue suit systems worldwide and to contribute to a growing area of research.”
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