The suspense is over. Oman’s Dhofar governorate has been chosen as the site for the highly prestigious Mars field simulation project, Mars Analogue Mission AMADEE-18. The simulation exercise will be held in February 2018, Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) announced on Tuesday.
OeWF, in partnership with the Oman National Steering Committee for AMADEE-18, will conduct the field simulation in Dhofar for four weeks.
Directed by a Mission Support Center in Austria, a small field crew will conduct experiments preparing for future human Mars missions in the fields of
engineering, planetary surface operations, astrobiology, geophysics/geology, life sciences and others, said the space organisation.
Oman has been selected after experts from OeWF visited the country for scouting the location from March 17 to 21. “This field mission is designed to be an opportunity to study equipment, procedures and workflows under Mars analog conditions with humans-in-the-loop,” OeWF stated.
“Based upon preceding Mars analog missions, the Austrian Space Forum has established a mission support infrastructure, trained and certified flight controllers and field crew members as well as a programmatic roadmap to implement a coherent strategy.”
Field activities will be scheduled through a “flight plan”, supported by a remote science team and directed by flight controllers at the Mission Support Center in Austria.
The deserts of Dhofar have a resemblance to various Mars surface features, such as sedimentary structures dating back to the Paleocene and Eocene and ancient river beds. “The test site offers a wide range of sand and rocky surfaces combined with a broad variability in inclination,” OeWF said.
OeWF said that hosting this mission would increase Oman’s visibility as a high-tech nation with a vibrant research sector, now also engaging in cutting-edge space exploration.
To perform the experiments, the OeWF’s Analogue-Astronauts wear the 45kg prototype spacesuit ‘Aouda’ with an incorporated interface to assist the astronaut.
The spacesuit is designed to deliver the astronaut’s vital data and mimic the restrictions of a spacesuit that will be worn by astronauts on Mars.