Martian surface to be recreated in Austrian ice caves

In a new set of experiments to test the latest Mars exploration equipment

Experiments in the Dachstein caves will test the latest Mars exploration equipment. OEWF (Paul Santek)/Andrew Bossi/Flickr

Hot on the heels of the Mars500 study comes the latest simulated Mars mission, as a group of intrepid space scientists headed by the Austrian Space Forum (OEWF) prepare to transform a system of enormous ice caves into the surface of Mars.

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The group will conduct the Mars field test in the Mammoth and Giant Ice caves, a series of vast caverns in the Dachstein region of Austria.

The extreme, barren environment inside the caves is the perfect place to simulate the hostile Martian landscape.

Gernot Groemer from the Austrian Space Forum is the project’s leader,

“For more than a decade there have been indications of cave systems on Mars, ranging from large frozen lava tubes to smaller high altitude caves,” he said.

“These systems are very interesting to astrobiologists as they provide excellent shielding from cosmic radiation, allow for a higher atmospheric water content and have a fairly stable temperature.

This would be an ideal place to look for life on Mars”..

He described the Dachstein system as a perfect Earth equivalent of the caves on Mars, providing similar challanges to operations, sterile sampling and engineering.

Along with a number of geophysical and biomedical experiments, the team will be testing the latest version of the Aouda.X spacesuit simulator.

The Aouda.X spacesuit simulator has been developed by the Austrian Space Forum and simulates the feel – through things like restricted movement and integrated air circulation – of a spacesuit likely to be used by astronauts exploring the Martian surface.

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The five day simulation will begin on 27 April 2012 and help the scientific community in their ever more realistic quest to send a manned mission to Mars.