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This video shows scientists from the Austrian Space Forum on their AMADEE-18 mission in February 2018.

Practising for a Mars trip

They were on a ‘Mars mission’, but it actually took place here on Earth, in the Omani desert. It was a practice run for future manned trips to Mars.

A map showing the Middle East with most countries in grey. Oman is highlighted in red, with a red dot indicating where the practice trip to Mars took place.
Map locating where the AMADEE-18 mission took place. Image (c) OeWF

 

The team were trying to get as close as possible to what a real mission to Mars would be like. This meant they had to recreate on Earth all the conditions that a crew might face on Mars. By doing this, they knew that their experiments were realistic. For example the crew were always expected to wear life support suits when they went outside, as this is what a real crew sent to Mars would have to do.

As well as recreating the environment of Mars, the scientists ran lots of other experiments in different areas of science including psychology, biology, geology and engineering. This was an international effort involving scientists from all over the world. Four experiments designed by school students were also included on the mission.

A side-by-side comparison of the Omani desert to photographs of the surface of Mars. Top Images (c) OeWF. Bottom images (c) NASA.

The desert in Oman was chosen as the test site because it has many similarities to the surface of Mars. There are lots of different sandy and rocky surfaces, as well as volcanic rocks and ancient river channels which can also be found on Mars. This makes it the perfect place to do these experiments.

Scientists hope their research on this mission will help them to send humans to the red planet one day.

You can find out more information on the AMADEE-18 mission on the Austrian Space Forum website.

Questions to ask your class

  1.  This mission included experiments thought up by school students. What would you want to learn about Mars? What experiment would you design to help you find out?
  2. Why do you think scientists are eager for humans to explore Mars in the future?
  3. The first manned Mars missions could end up being a one way journey, meaning the crew may never return to Earth. Would you sign up for a mission like this?