Blog written by Dr. Lucas Rehnberg, InnovaSpace SGen Hub Coordinator
In the build up to the AMADEE-18 mission in Oman in February 2018, the Austrian Space Forum is in the thick of preparation with the leadership team and the analogue astronauts (AA) undergoing intensive training. But not only this, the Austrian Space Forum, with all the excitement surrounding AMADEE-18, organised an additional weekend of training for the volunteers that are so eager to take part; this came in the form of Analog Mission Basic Training (AMBT) for AMADEE-18. I myself got caught up in this and am honoured to have taken part in this training to join fellow Mars pioneers and space enthusiasts on this endeavour to help pave the way for a future mission to Mars.
The training weekend recently took place in the beautiful city of Innsbruck, Austria, just before the opening of the Christmas markets. In this quiet city surrounded by the Alps, an international group of young scientists with a shared passion for space gathered for training. What struck me immediately was the range of nations and backgrounds of all the volunteers that were involved. There were undergraduate science students, psychologists, IT experts, doctors and space engineers, to name a few. And these individuals came from across Europe and even as far as Oman to be a part of this mission. True to its mission goals, the Austrian Space Forum, with projects like AMADEE-18, is providing outreach and opportunities for young professionals and students to engage in space life sciences by providing hands on experience. The gathering of this group of volunteers shows how space has this universal appeal, able to be cross-generations and truly be multi-disciplinary.
Lead by its President, Dr. Gernot Grömer, and the leadership team, we began our training in earnest. This training had been a fairly new innovation of the Austrian Space Forum, born from years of experience of conducting these analogue missions. With technology and software evolving so rapidly, it is easy to see how between missions individuals would need to re-validate or completely learn new skills and familiarise themselves with the latest changes in order to run a safe and efficient analogue mission. To this end, this training was developed in order to set a new standard of training for the volunteers and participants in these analogue missions.
The training began with a tour of the facilities, including seeing some of the scientific experiments that will be taken to the field, and team building exercises to break the ice and to get acquainted with our new colleagues for the up coming mission. Rapidly the group came together, with a shared passion for this common goal, this group of strangers quickly formed the new mission support team that would help run AMADEE-18.Technical lectures were broken up with some inspiring talks from Dr Grömer and his team, but also by one of the current AA, Kartik Kumar. Kartik is currently preparing for his second analogue mission, but took the time to give us a talk on his experiences of selection, training for this mission and what is it means to him to be an AA.
The bulk of the training came in the form of a ‘simulated’ or ’Sim’ mission in the actual mission support centre (MSC) in Innsbruck. We were trained with the latest software and protocols, as well as operational procedures. It was also an excellent experience to see what it is really like to work with a 10 min time delay (due to the distance from Earth, radio communication takes 10mins, one way!). This small taste of ‘hands on’ training brought it home as to what it will really be like when the mission launches (or ‘lands’) on the 8th February in Oman. The level of complexity, planning and logistics for these missions is astonishing and a real credit to the team at the Austrian Space Forum.
There is definitely a buzz in the air at the Austrian Space Forum. The passion for this mission and for what they do is palpable. From the top, with Dr Grömer, down to the newest intern, they truly love what they do, and passionately believe in what we are doing and trying to achieve with AMADEE-18 and the missions to come. The Austrian Space Forum may not have the resources or prestige of the national space agencies, however you would be foolish to think that their passion or commitment to sending mankind to Mars is no less intense. The Austrian Space Forum, in partnership with the Sultanate of Oman, has already made waves and contributed hugely to the space community with acquiring new knowledge for all to benefit from as well as galvanising students and space enthusiasts, myself included.
For those who wish to know more or simply follow AMADEE-18, there is lots of information about the mission on the OeWF website, and there will be more teasers released as the launch date approaches. Follow the build up on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) and follow the link to monitor the count down:
For further mission description, follow the below link:
Follow on social media with #oewf #AMADEE18