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On a crisp morning in the scenic Austrian city of Innsbruck, nestled between the stunning Alps, I made my way into the Austrian Space Forum’s (OeWF) HQ, ready for an adventure. It was the 10th of January, 2015 and I was on my way, intent on making my impact on the OeWF’s Analog Astronaut B-Selection event for the class-of-2015. Having travelled across town from my quaint hotel, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I strolled into the lounge and was immediately greeted by a sea of smiles. In that instant, I knew this was going to be a good weekend.
It didn’t take long for the introductions to commence. What struck me the most was the sheer diversity of backgrounds within the A-selection group: a physiologist, a medical student, an aerospace engineer, a meteorologist, it was amazing to think that we were all here with the same goal of exploring the final frontier. The camaraderie within the group was fantastic, and wholly unexpected, given that we had only known each other for a matter of hours.
My day started off with a psychological evaluation: potentially a daunting exercise, set to separate the adults from the children. Instead, it was a fun-filled activity, with plenty of laughter and friendship that went hand-in-hand with the competitive spirit and drive to make the most of this unique opportunity. No one lacked desire to demonstrate to the OeWF judges that we were individually made of “the right stuff”, and despite the competitive nature of the weekend’s events, there was a true sense of support within the group. The motivation to succeed was palpable, but in no way came in the way of building new friendships. On the contrary, the B-selection weekend highlighted the value of bringing people together that all share a common vision to push forward the boundaries of science and exploration.
Saturday was rounded off by dinner at a local hotspot, the Stiftskeller. A few in the group had taken the initiative to plan a thoroughly enjoyable Tirolean dinner, complimented by fascinating stories, canvassing past, present and future. I knew at this point that I had made friends for life. All of this is not to say that the selection itself had faded out of focus. On the contrary, it was clear that everyone was vying for the unprecedented opportunity to don a Mars simulation suit and make a significant contribution to the future of manned Mars missions. Between the “job interview”, lifestyle interview, rover-driving exercise and various others, we were put through our paces by OeWF.
The Monday after the B-selection, everyone was glued to their computers, eagerly awaiting the outcome of the judging process. The results came through and there was an immediate flood of congratulations spread through the mailing list. The only sad note was the realization that not everyone would be present for the C-selection round. Nevertheless, the class-of-2015 will live on, hopefully with a reunion in the not-so-distant future. Thank you new friends!
- 23.05.2019 - 01.09.2019: Exhibition: Austria in Space – a country takes off!
- 28.06.2019 - 30.06.2019: 4. OeWF Analog Mission Basic Training (AMBT)
- 16.07.2019 - 25.07.2019: Summer School Alpbach 2019
- 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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