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Technicians assist a trainee astronaut to suit up in a spacesuit. Six members from Portugal, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Israel will be cut off from the world for a month
Inside a huge crater in Israel’s sun-baked Negev desert, a team wearing space suits ventures forth on a mission to simulate conditions on Mars.
The Austrian Space Forum has set up a pretend Martian base with the Israeli space agency at Makhtesh Ramon, a 500-metre (1,600-foot) deep, 40 kilometre (25 mile) wide crater.
“It’s a dream come true,” Israeli Alon Tenzer, 36, told AFP. “It’s something we’ve been working on for years.”
During their mission, they will conduct tests including on a drone prototype that functions without GPS, and on automated wind- and solar-powered mapping vehicles.
“The group’s cohesion and their ability to work together are crucial for surviving on Mars,” said Gernot Groemer, the Austrian mission supervisor.
– ‘Largest voyage ever’ –
The Israel project is part of mission Amadee-20, which was expected to kick off last year but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
German astronaut Anika Mehlis, the only woman on the team, told AFP how happy she was to be part of the project.
Mehlis, a trained microbiologist, will study a scenario where bacteria from Earth infect potential life forms that may be found on Mars, saying this “would be a huge problem”.
“Over here, we have temperatures of about 25-30 degrees Celsius, but on Mars the temperature is minus 60 degrees Celsius and the atmosphere is not fit for breathing,” said Groemer.
NASA envisions the first human mission to Mars will launch in 2030.
“I believe the very first human to walk on Mars is already born and we are the ship-builders to enable this journey.”