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What's an analogue astronaut? And where to find them

Updated: Feb 9

Rather than what, you should ask who. Who is an analogue astronaut?


Quick answer, I've been one, in Poland. At the Lunares Research Station.



The better answer is that an analogue astronaut is a person who participates in simulated space missions on Earth to test and develop technologies, protocols, and procedures for future space exploration. These simulations are designed to mimic the physical and psychological challenges of living and working in space. Analogue astronauts often work in isolated and extreme environments such as underwater habitats, deserts, or Arctic regions to simulate the conditions of a space mission. They are typically highly trained professionals such as scientists, engineers, or pilots who work together in teams to conduct research, test equipment, and develop new technologies.

 

Watch this TED Talk from Angelo Vermulen,a multidisciplinary artist and scientist who lived in a dome for four months as part of the HI-SEAS program, a NASA-funded planetary surface analogue program in Hawaii.



He explains he learned about individual and team coping mechanisms in such extreme isolation and leadership. Since, he has created a project called Seeker, which invites communities to create starship prototypes that reimagine human habitation and survival in outer space. The project is not about escaping from earth, but rather reimagining the future beyond earthly constraints. The project uses a co-creation approach, with an evolving artwork and architecture, and runs isolation missions inside these art and design projects to test them. The next version of the project is being developed in the Atacama Desert in Chile, a Mars analogue location.


Where can you find analogue astronauts habitats?

Some examples of research stations, also called habitats used for analogue astronaut simulations:


  • NEEMO Aquarius Reef Base: This underwater laboratory is located off the coast of Florida and is used to simulate space missions in an underwater environment.

  • HI-SEAS: This habitat is located on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii and is used to simulate long-duration space missions on Mars.

  • MDRS: The Mars Desert Research Station is located in the Utah desert and is used to simulate a Mars mission.

  • LunAres: This habitat is located in Poland and is used to simulate lunar missions.

  • Concordia Station: This research station is located in Antarctica and is used to simulate long-duration space missions in extreme environments.

  • Astroland: This habitat is located in Cantabria, Spain and is used to simulate missions to Mars.

These habitats are designed to test and develop new technologies, procedures, and protocols for future space missions, while also providing a realistic and challenging environment for analogue astronauts to work in.


What's the most significant episode that happened during an analogue astronaut mission?


There have been several significant episodes that have occurred during analogue astronaut missions, but one that stands out is the HI-SEAS IV mission that took place from August 2015 to August 2016. During this mission, one of the crew members, Dr. Sheyna Gifford, was diagnosed with a blood clot in her leg, which is a potentially life-threatening condition. Because the crew was on a simulated mission to Mars, they were not able to leave the habitat for medical treatment.

 

To deal with the situation, the crew relied on their training and the expertise of remote medical professionals to develop a plan of action. They used the limited medical supplies and equipment they had on hand to treat Dr. Gifford and managed to stabilize her condition until she could be evacuated.

 

This incident highlighted the importance of medical training and equipment for future space missions, as well as the need for effective communication and collaboration between crew members and remote medical professionals. It also demonstrated the resilience and resourcefulness of analogue astronauts in the face of unexpected challenges.

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