How are you Ready for a mission to the moon or Mars? You can’t take a short trip to learn about this land, so you need to find the next best thing. There is nothing better than our own alien world on Earth: Iceland.
In the 1960s, Apollo astronauts used Iceland to prepare for their historic lunar hikes. Iceland’s unique characteristics and topography make it an ideal test bed for missions to other worlds. “You have underground ice. You have lava tubes. You have areas with intense volcanic activity,” said Daniel Ribb, executive mission director of the Icelandic Space Agency (ISA), a private research organization not affiliated with the Icelandic government. “Iceland has the most diverse terrestrial analogues that exist anywhere on earth, close to each other.”
In 2019, ISA researchers used these features to conduct a trial run for the Mars mission. Participants put on a space suit named Mars Suit 1 (MS1) manufactured by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and performed activities that future astronauts might one day contend with on this red planet. This suit provides an extraordinary experience, with a very solid footing.
Now, the researchers return to Iceland with an upgraded version of the MS1.5 suit, which will also be tested. The goal of this research, conducted by ISA in collaboration with the private company AdventureX, is to test some components of the suit taking into account NASA’s Artemis program, which is expected to return humans to the lunar surface later this decade .
Activities include climbing in and out of lava tubes and collecting samples from the walls, such as bacteria, which may be the main content of a lunar mission. The upgraded spacesuit also tested new carbon dioxide sensors and biometric underwear, which can record data such as the astronaut’s heart rate and breathing rate. Some problems have occurred; for example, the sun visor condenses due to temperature fluctuations, which may be more extreme on the moon.