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The completion of “Training Round III” means a big step forward for the Class of 2015: at least that was my experience. After two challenging and intense training sessions along with overcoming the challenges of the selection process, it was clear to me that our group was growing closer and closer together for the work at hand. We certainly proved ourselves as a team in the time of 17-19 April 2015. You realize you are forming a close team when you can both enjoy the work while carrying out important duties. Relying on your team is particularly important in order to perform under challenging and extraordinary conditions, isolated from the support of others . In such situations, the ability to rely on your colleagues is a must, and trusting and empathizing with them is also just as important.
Training Round III prepared us for our future missions: we learned a lot, we trained hard, and we had a lot of fun in the process!
Round III started with a flaming fire…
We started day#1 with training on firefighting techniques given by the fire chief of Innsbruck’s professional firefighter squad. We learned a great deal from him and his crew and I feel confident about the reaction that our team will have in case a fire emergency during the mission (although I’m not interested in practicing my skills in a real emergency situation, but it’s still good to practice on simulated fire emergencies). And, exactly: who hasn’t once dreamed of being a fireman?!?Training as a firefighter to gain necessary knowledge for my work as an analog astronaut was like a childhood dream come true. We also continued with our first aid training to practice responding to emergency situations. In the field, we will either be acting as analog astronauts (AA) or as safety guardian for the team and for each other. The position of safety guardian is a key position in analog astronaut missions of the Austrian Space Forum, and the position is dedicated to oversee the AA during the simulations to ensure that everything goes well from a safety point of view. Each AA has a guardian angel in the field, so to say. And after watching my fellow AAs during the training, I trust them because I know that they will be able to take care of me.
Day#2 was a really special day for me; on this day, my simulation team equipped me with the Aouda.X spacesuit for the first time. I was mulling this over or the whole week, and I was sure that it would be the best moment for me in the whole weekend. Well, as I will tell later, it turned out to be the second best moment (if a 3-hour process can, in fact, be considered only one single moment, that is ;-)). The day started with our traditional morning run at 7:00am to maintain our fitness level, and it continued with a great lesson on geology survey techniques, more specifically in the use of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) technology to image the subsurface as we will do in the frame of one of the glaciology experiments planned for AMADEE-15. After lunch, the great moment finally came, and my team helped outfit me with the Aouda.X spacesuit!
I had been waiting for this moment for a long, long time, and I was overjoyed after I had fully put on the spacesuit. Then… I realized the weight of the spacesuit, and how tiring the activities might be due to the weight of the suit; however, the joy of being there was much greater than the tiredness I felt. This suit is not the same as a flight-qualified spacesuit, but it was the closest thing I can imagine. And, really: once the helmet was closed, I felt that I was entering another little world. Maybe it was simply the spirit of the moment about thinking in “simulated Mars mode,” but I enjoyed the sensation of being and moving in the spacesuit. I thought this was my peak moment of the training, but the real one came after the dinner.
We spent the night outdoors, in the Ehnbachklamm-Canyon. A beautiful place despite the low temperatures we had that night (I think the temperature dropped below 0°C during the night, but I also didn’t venture out of the tent to check it…). The good thing is that we had a clear sky throughout the night and, even with the light of our fire, great for stargazing. We spotted the ISS orbiting over our heads, and for me this meant a brief connection among space explorers, between the crew aboard the ISS and us in our small camp. Then… came the announcement of the AAs selected to participate for AMADEE-15 as field crew… The five of us were selected; the full class of 2015 will have the chance, and the privilege, to perform extra-vehicular activity (EVA) exercises in August! THAT was really the best moment of my weekend: and in my opinion — also very important for our group.
Day#3 started with a sunrise between the mountains… as well as with an X-Large breakfast to recover the calories we used fighting the cold during the night. After that, we headed to Area 47, an off-road circuit where we learned how to drive and maintain our means of mobility during missions: a quad. Quads are a great vehicle for an AA: versatile, maneuverable, and stable with our over-sized suits and the extra weight… also fun to drive! At first, they seem easier to control than they really are: so, you should approach them with care like with any other vehicle. After orientation to driving the quad on normal road surfaces, we entered the training circuit with steep slopes and irregular terrain, similar to what we will find in the field. We concluded the day’s driving after putting on our suit gloves and with backpacks on our backs to mimic the sensations and higher center of gravity that we will have with the suit… it was a great training.
Round III ended quicker than expected… time flies when you enjoy what you are doing. Now I can’t wait for the next Training Rounds to take place!
Author: Iñigo Muñoz Elorza
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