A test to become real astronauts
Analogue missions have been going on since 1997, simulating a visit to Mars, to an asteroid or to the Moon. Asclepios is a professional Analogue mission to the Moon and completely organised by students. On Friday 16 July they provided their supporters, including HE Space, with a full tour of the base via Zoom.
The base is located on the Grimsel Test Site (GTS) in Switzerland.
Currently they are halfway through their mission, which is 9 days in total. This is their test to be real astronauts. Can they handle the isolation? They do experiments and test the astronaut suits. Female commander, Eleonore Poli, is convinced students can organise a real analogue mission and living like an astronaut is really sustainable.
They are living 400 metres underground and 1 km from the exit. The Mission Control Centre (MCC) is on 8 hours shift. The astronauts are 24/7 in their base.
Feedback from the analogue astronauts is that they are not suffering isolation effects yet, apart from being a bit hungry, cold (13 to 14 degrees although with heaters now 17 degrees Celsius) and sleep deprived (noisy). They do their EVA’s (Extra Vehicular Activity) in a second tunnel. They can take dry showers. They keep fit by doing sports, which is the only time they are wearing t-shirts - normally they wear at least 4 layers of clothing. They are preparing healthy meals themselves which were designed by a dietician.
In case of a medical emergency, they can help themselves with a medical kit and they even have a defibrillator.
In the Zoom call a lot of questions were asked - find some of them below.
Is there any radiation in your base? The Radiation Background rate at the Grimsel Test Site is ca 0.2 MICRO Sv per hour. This is coming from natural uranium in the rock. The Radon level is low due to good ventilation and not harmful.
Do you start to feel like you were really on the Moon? How isolated from the rest of the world do you feel? Contact like the Zoom call makes them feel connected and, yes, living in the cave feels like you are on a different planet. There is a distance, but they have contact time slots with family.
Did your expectations and the reality of life on the Moon base coincide? Yes, the mission is more professional than I expected, working on it for 3 yrs. Mentors like Claude Nicollier and a lot of experts helped them prepare and train for the mission.
How is the Extreme Environment Training you did in Crans-Montana helping you with the mission? It helped to get us out of our comfort zone, living in the snow and diving under the ice, quite straining, and received a lot of useful tips. The most important aspect was the bonding as this was the first time we were spending time together as a group to get to know each other.
If you want to learn more:
Link to the podcast: https://asclepios.ch
When they were asked about a funny anecdote that has happened in the base they mentioned that one of the songs the artist among us plays is a real earworm