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Tests and experiments to be carried out by scientists from 19 Nations worldwide
With AMADEE-15 the Austrian Space Forum (ÖWF) is currently conducting the highest altitude Mars analog mission ever. During the following 10 days scientists from Europe and the United States will emulate the exploration of a Martian rock glacier on the Austrian Kaunertaler Glacier and helping to prepare for future manned missions to the red planet. Directed by the Mission Support Center in Innsbruck/Austria, a small field crew in cooperation with Analog Astronauts are performing experiments in the fields of engineering, planetary surface operations, astrobiology and geo-sciences. A newly developed 3-D-Mars-Virtual-Reality platform will be used to support the mission.
Following its successful MARS2013 mission in Morocco, the Austrian Space Forum has again chosen a landscape that in many ways resembles Martian terrain: a rock glacier in the Tyrolean Kaunertal in Austria. Here the Austrian experts together with scientists from all over the world will conduct AMADEE-15, a Mars Analog Mission to prepare for the future exploration of Martian glaciers. Directed by the Mission Support Center in Innsbruck/Austria a small field crew is currently conducting experiments in the relevant scientific disciplines for examining a glacier, such as geology, astrobiology and engineering.
Essential to the simulation are the Austrian Space Forum’s Analog-Astronauts. Wearing the spacesuit simulator “Aouda” they will perform the planned experiments. The spacesuit simulator “Aouda” is able to simulate the wearing of a spacesuit that would be used on Mars, such as movement restrictions, weight, pressure and limited sensory input. An elaborate human-machine interface along with a system of sensors and specifically developed software helps the suit to become an assistant to the astronaut. The 45kg prototype has been developed to optimize interactions with other (robotic) components, such as a rover, and minimize the risk of human contamination.
An interdisciplinary team of scientists supports the Analog-Astronauts remotely. These scientists do not accompany the Analog-Astronauts on „Mars“, meaning the glacier on this mission, but stay on “Earth” at the Mission Support Center in Innsbruck/Austria or at their respective research facilities, for instance in Warsaw, Athens or Budapest to monitor the experiments and to receive the captured data.
During the simulation all communication between the Mission Support Center (MSC) and the field crew is time-delayed by 10 minutes to mirror the conditions of a Mars expedition. An answer to a request from Innsbruck/Austria therefore takes a minimum of 20 minutes for the round trip from the MSC to Mars and back.
„For the current Mars Analog Mission we can again depend on two very supportive partners: Kaunertaler Gletscherbahnen, who operates the ski regions on the glacier, and T-Mobile, one of Austria’s biggest mobile network operators”, says Dr. Gernot Grömer, expedition lead of AMADEE-15 and ÖWF board member. „Kaunertaler Gletscherbahnen provides us with their excellent in situ logistics and we use T-Mobile’s LTE broadband Internet connection to transfer several gyga-bytes of sensitive data from the field to the MSC daily“, Grömer adds.
Astrobiology, Geology, Human Medicine, Robotics and Engineering
During the Mars Analog Mission, a camera suspended from a helium balloon will support the Analog-Astronauts in the field. Ground penetrating radar will be used to detect sub surface deposits of ice, while other scientific methods will be used to date the age of moraines. Scientists will use a Laser to provide evidence for microbiological life that exists in extreme environments such as glaciers. For the first time, a 3D-Mars-Virtual-Reality platform applying the Oculus Rift will come into operation. Its user can move through a virtual Mars landscape and habitat. This equipment was developed to provide future Mars Astronauts a training environment that is as realistic as possible. Further experiments focus on life supporting equipment, such as a 3D printer to supply humans with dentures on their long journey to Mars or a shower using water vapor and therefore just a fraction of the usual amount spent.
Junior Researchers explore Mars
In cooperation with the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology, the Austrian Space Forum invited 12 Austrian students and two 2 Swiss students aged between 16 and 20 to join the mission for two days. After the visit, they will continue to engage communities as space exploration ambassadors, sharing their experience with a wider audience in their respective social circles and work environments.
Press fotos & press kit: https://www.oewf.org/en/press/photos/
About the Austrian Space Forum
The Austrian Space Forum (Österreichisches Weltraum Forum, OeWF) is a national network for aerospace engineers, scientists and people with a passion for space. This citizen-science organization is involved in leading-edge space exploration research and serves as a communication platform between the space sector and the public; it is embedded in a global network of specialists from the space industry, research and policy.
Hence, the Austrian Space Forum facilitates a strengthening of the Austrian space sector through enhancing the public visibility of space activities, technical workshops and conferences as well as Forum-related projects.
The Forum has a small, but highly active pool of professional members contributing to space endeavors, mostly in cooperation with other – national as well as international – space organizations. The spectrum of our activities ranges from simple classroom presentations to 15,000-visitor space exhibitions, from expert reports for the Austrian Federal Ministry for Technology to space technology transfer activities for terrestrial applications.
In summary, the Austrian Space Forum is…
- a volunteer space organization, led by space professionals,
- focusing on space research (e.g. human-robotic Mars exploration) and outreach/education,
- an independent organization funded via research projects, donations and outreach activities.
This article is available in: German
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