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Scientists and crew members of the AMADEE-15 mission met again during the AMADEE-15 Science Workshop and Networking Meeting in Graz. During those two days (18-19Feb2016) in February we were discussing scientific results of the experiments that were run during the AMADEE-15, as well as planning for the future missions.AMADEE-15 Abstract Booklet
Two experiments discussed during the workshop were focused on astrobiology. The first one was testing the L.I.F.E. instrument which was designed to detect even very small amounts of chlorophyll in the sample. The AMADEE-15 experience lead to re-designing of this device, so that it is more resistant to the field conditions and it is easier to use when wearing the suits. The Glacier-MASE was a second experiment directly related to the astrobiology. It was focused on designing the most efficient ways to collect biological samples by astronauts. It showed that the surface of Kaunertal glacier is full of (microbial) life.
Other experiments presented during the workshop were more related to the geology. One of them showed applicability of the Schmidt Hammer (Note: a rebound hammer to measure the strength of rocks) during the future Mars missions. It is a simple device that allows to quickly and quantitatively detect the variation in levels of weathering – what can be converted to the rock’s age of exposure. And this piece of knowledge is crucial to every geologist. The second geological experiment was focused on usage of the ground penetrating radar in analog Mars research. The third geological experiment WoRIS studied the rate of cryoconite formation depending on differences in albedo (a color) of rocks laying on the glacier surface. Cryoconites are simply holes in the ice surface formed around a rock heated by the sun. The results show that the rate of their formation is much less dependent on the albedo than previously thought: light grey rocks form cryoconites of comparable sizes to dark grey rocks.
The third large group of experiments discussed during the workshop were focused on designing and testing new technologies useful during the future Mars missions. A new, re-designed Cliffbot allowed to explore steep slopes that are, in the same time very interesting for scientists, and too dangerous for astronauts to walk around. Balloon Carried Camera, despite its constant fight with the strong, high-mountain winds allowed to improve the ability of the Mission Support Center to track every move of the astronauts. Puli Space Technology rover team – one of the competitors of the Google Lunar X Prize – reported that they had an unpleasant adventure in the very beginning of the AMADEE-15. Puli fell down from a very steep slope few meters down. However, it survived this violent event fully functional, showing that it is ready for the harsh lunar environment. A third technological presentation focused on experiment that will probably fly to Mars together with the upcoming rover mission. And then it will fly around the Red Planet because it is a Martian helicopter. Yes. This is possible, and it will most probably happen.
During the workshop we have also heard presentations about other initiatives in space analog research. The first one is the HiSEAS project – NASA-sponsored long-duration habitat-based mission focused on studying the influence of the food on the well-being of the future Mars crew. The second is the MOONWALK project: a large European initiative to build and test in moon-like and mars-like conditions a new analog suits and rovers. The Martian part of the test will take place in April this year.
There was one more interesting point on the AMADEE-15 meeting agenda. For the first time during a OeWF science workshop we run a science speed dating session. Speed dating between students and senior scientists. Very proper, scientific speed dating. This event consisted of four scientists, representing a wide variety of the disciplines, patiently responding to questions of junior scientists. Questions usually lead to interesting discussions such as: “How to efficiently clean space ships of microorganisms?”, “How much can we ever hope to learn about exoplanets?”, “How to fly a helicopter on Mars?” and last but not least: “How to design a sleeping bag for an astronaut?”
Author: Anna Losiak, OeWF RSS Team
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