Need to test a space suit? Go to Iceland

How are you Ready for a moon or Mars mission? You can’t take a quick jolt to get to ground level, so you need to find the next best thing. And here on earth there is nothing better than our own part of the alien world: Iceland.

Apollo astronauts famously used it in the 1960s to prepare for their historic lunar voyage, with Iceland’s unique features and terrain making it an ideal test ground for other world missions. “You have surface ice. You have lava tubes. You have areas of intense volcanic activity,” said Daniel Leib, executive mission director of the Icelandic Space Agency (ISA), a non-governmental research organization not affiliated with the Icelandic government. “Iceland has the most diverse set of adjacent terrestrial analogues available anywhere in the world.”

In 2019, ISA researchers used these features to run dry for missions to Mars. Participants wore a spacesuit called Mars Suite 1 (MS1) created by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and performed activities that may one day lead astronauts to fight on the Red Planet in the future. The suite provides an extraterrestrial experience with a lot of Terra Pharma on its feet.

Three “analog astronauts” – a term for performing ridiculous astronaut activity on Earth – spent up to three hours at a time on the MS1.5 suite in Iceland in three days.Photo: Vincent Fournier

Now researchers are back in Iceland with an upgraded version of the suite, dubbed the MS1.5, to speed it up. The goal of this year’s research is to examine some of the components of the suite, with NASA’s Artemis program in mind, conducted by ISA in partnership with private company AdventureX, which is expected to send humans back to the lunar surface after this decade.

Activities include climbing in and out of lava tubes and collecting samples from walls, such as bacteria, which may be the main cause of lunar missions. The upgraded suite also tested a new carbon dioxide sensor and a biometric underwear that recorded data from astronauts, including their heart rate and respiratory rate. Some problems have occurred; The visor has experienced condensation from temperature changes, for example, which will probably be more extreme on the moon.

The expeditions focus on surface ice exploration and lava tube exploration, both features and activities that may be part of future moon and Mars missions.Photo: Vincent Fournier

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