Israeli venture simulates Mars in Mitzpe Ramon

Mars space station Photo: Shutterstock

The joint Ben Gurion University-Technion venture will test the ability of crews to operate in space for long periods.

Two weeks from now, 6-8 volunteers will leave their regular lives and enter a facility now under construction in Mitzpe Ramon for the purpose of simulating life on Mars. The volunteers will live for several weeks in a closed facility, in which they will carry out daily tasks corresponding to those that must be performed in space. They will leave the facility only in space suits, and will have no contact with people who are not part of the mission. The purpose is to test the psychological effect of living under the conditions on Mars, to carry out good human engineering of the conditions in the living quarters, and examine possible failures in scientific tasks.

The facility will be crowded, like a real outer space facility. The food will be what can be brought to the spaceship, and the astronauts will have to conform to the daily routine expected from people traveling to Mars. On space missions, personnel is limited and as much research as possible must be accomplished, while the spaceship must be maintained technologically, including as a household.

Mitzpe Ramon was selected as a target for the venture because it is regarded as similar to Mars in land structure, geology, aridity, and isolation - a rare combination in other regions in the world. At the same time, it does not have the extreme cold that prevails on Mars, which can reach minus 140 degrees, and also obviously cannot simulate the lack of oxygen and the prevailing radiation on Mars.

The team setting up the project is headed by Dr. Hillel Rubinstein, a post-doctorate student from Ben Gurion University of the Negev, under the guidance of Ben-Gurion University VP and Dean of R&D Prof. Dan Blumberg. Rubinstein is setting up the project in the framework of a venture he founded named Desert Mars Analog Ramon Station (D-MARS) - an initiative to establish a planetary research center in the Mitzpe Ramon area. The initiative is supported by the Israel Space Agency and concerns interested in the venture because of its educational potential, such as the Industrial Cooperation Authority (ICA)and the Austrian Space Agency.

The facility itself was built by students at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology Faculty of Architecture, together with other students from other Technion departments.

The Israeli project was founded after a similar project by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) ended. While the Israeli project is designed for educational and research purposes, however, NASA's project was designed to make real preparations for life on Mars. The astronauts spend eight months in a facility on the edge of a volcano in Hawaii. One of the main words of advice provided by Ansley Barnard, a participant in the simulation, to the participants of similar future ventures, such as the one in Israel, was, "Remember that the toilet systems are also a system and they’re a living system. So stay in balance with those, let them talk to you, if they smell a certain way or act a certain way they’re trying to tell you something, so listen."

Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on February 4, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

Mars space station Photo: Shutterstock
Mars space station Photo: Shutterstock
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