Need to test the spacesuit?Go to Iceland

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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 no better place than our 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 made it an ideal test bed for other world missions. “You have underground ice. You have lava tubes. You have areas with strong 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 earth 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 spacesuit named Mars Suit 1 (MS1) manufactured by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and performed activities that astronauts might one day contend with on this red planet. This suit provides an extraordinary experience, with a very solid footing.

Three “simulated astronauts”-the term for simulating astronaut activities on Earth-spent up to three hours wearing MS1.5 spacesuits at a time during the three days in Iceland.Photography: Vincent Fournier

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 that records astronaut data, including their 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.

The focus of the expedition is to find underground ice and explore lava tubes. These features and activities may become part of future missions to the moon and Mars.Photography: Vincent Fournier

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