oman mars astronauts

A crew of European test astronauts, wearing sunglasses and jumpsuits, arrived in an Omani desert this week to lay the groundwork for a Mars simulation. The terrestrial mission is intended to pave the way to the red planet, Mars, according to AFP.

The “analog astronauts” of the Austrian Space Forum - a volunteer-based collective - will begin to prepare for a four-week simulation mission which is due to begin in February 2018.

The five-person Austrian team met with their Omani counterparts at Marmul Airport, a remote outpost normally used by oil workers.

Oman, much like Mars on Earth...

"We want to simulate Mars on Earth and so we need a place that looks as much like Mars as possible. And we found it here in Oman," Alexander Soucek, the lead flight director of the AMADEE-18 mission, told AFP.

After finding a suitable location to set up camp, Soucek added: "Here the humans coming from Earth will land after six months travel through space... Simulated, of course! When we fly to Mars, in reality, we will need as many questions as possible already answered so that we are really well prepared."

Throughout the Oman desert mission, the team will carry out a series of experiments, from growing greens without soil in an inflatable hydroponic greenhouse to testing an autonomous "tumbleweed" rover, which maps out terrain while propelled by the wind.

The team hopes the simulation will help nail down future tools and procedures for the first manned mission to Mars.

oman desert mars austria
Source: TOI

For the Omani Astronomical Society, which invited the Austrian Space Forum, the mission is a way to inspire the country's youth.

A series of lectures are taking place at Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, geared especially towards hundreds of young students.

The total cost of the project is expected to be around 500,000 euros, covered mainly by private donations from industry partners.

On Monday the Austrian Space Forum signed a memorandum of understanding with Oman, making the sultanate's selection as the mission site official.

Guess which other GCC country is working on a similar project...

Yes, the UAE.

At the end of September, the UAE government formally announced plans for a project to build a city that replicates and simulates the living conditions of Mars.

The cost of this ambitious program is expected to be 500 million dirhams ($136 million).

The details were discussed during the Annual UAE Government Meeting in Abu Dhabi, where over 400 senior government officials and members of the Executive Council met to review and discuss key national development plans for the future.

The 'Mars Scientific City' will be the largest space simulation of its kind on earth. The walls of the project will be printed using 3D technology and foundations will be made using sand from the UAE desert. 

The city will also host a museum containing displays of humanity's greatest space achievements. Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed described the enterprise as an "extraordinary national project".

The enterprise is a part of the country's Mars by 2117 strategy, launched earlier this year. The most ambitious of these projects is the human colonization of Mars by 2117, with a city built by the UAE.