Cospar 3 - Banner

Austrian Space Forum´s new Analog Astronauts graduate in London

Five of the eight new analog astronauts at graduation ceremony in London, from the left: Liad Yosef Israel), Simone Paternostro (Italy), Anika Mehlis (Germany), Robert Wild (Austria), Adam Crellin (United Kingdom), credit: OeWF

On 4th November 2019 the Austrian Space Forum´s (OeWF) new analog astronaut class of 2019 concluded their challenging training at a formal ceremony at the London Institute of Physics. The graduation was one of the highlights of this year’s European Mars Conference that is suitably themed “Arrive, Survive and Thrive”. The new analog astronauts now complete a total of 13 individuals. The 2 female and 11 male analog astronauts come from Austria, Germany,  Greece, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Currently the Austrian Space Forum is the only organization worldwide to conduct this challenging and highly specialized training.

As the analog astronauts now have successfully completed their training they are qualified to take part in the OeWF´s next Mars analog mission that will take place in Israel in October 2020. However, only 6 of the now 13 analog astronauts will go to the Negev desert to test equipment and working procedures for future human Mars exploration.

What is Analog Research?

“Analog research is designed to test concepts, working procedures and equipment to find the weak spots so the actual mission can be realized as safely as possible,” says Dr. Gernot Grömer, Administrative Director of the Austrian Space Forum and continues,“ the purpose of simulating a Mars-mission on Earth is to prepare for future crewed missions on the Red Planet. To perform the experiments, the OeWF is one of only five research groups worldwide that has developed a prototype spacesuit which is worn by the OeWF’s analog astronauts during their mission.”

International Team and Cooperation

Gernot Grömer says, ”International cooperation is definitely the key word when it comes to the Austrian Space Forum’s Mars analog missions. Institutions and scientists from all over the world take part in theses highly complex projects.”

What is an Analog Astronaut?

OeWF’s analog astronauts during last Mars analog mission in Oman 2018, credit OeWF

The Austrian Space Forum’s analog astronauts are carefully selected experts who are trained to execute most of the science field activities while wearing the OeWF´s spacesuit prototype. They also act as a public face and represent the mission as STEM-ambassadors for media and educational activities. Analog astronauts conduct spaceflight-simulations in Mars-like regions on earth as well as test and evaluate workflows and human factors pertinent to human Mars exploration. Their training includes planetology, geology, astrobiology, media training, stress management, emergency care, fitness and above all operating the spacesuit prototype.

The OeWF is one of only five institutions worldwide which has so far developed such a prototype. It emulates the restrictions of an actual planetary surface spacesuit, like weight, resistance or limited sensory input, whilst protecting the analog astronaut from the environment and keeping him/her alive. An elaborate human-machine interface, including a sensor network and specifically developed software assist the analog astronaut during planetary surface operations. The 45kg heavy prototype has been developed to optimize interactions with other (robotic) components, like a rover, and minimize the risk of human contamination.

Check Also

#SpaceWatchGL Opinion: 10 iconic marketing campaigns in Space

Marketing in outer space seems like an innovative idea, but it has 60+ years of history. Dr. Wernher von Braun, former Marshall Space Flight Center Director, pointed out on July 22, 1969: "Because without public relations we would have been unable to do it". Today, accelerated access to space provides unprecedented opportunities for #advertising stunts and viral marketing. Some campaigns raise ethical, environmental, and regulatory concerns, while others champion sustainability.