What to know

Astronauts Are Roaming The Desert in Oman

Astronauts in the desert in Oman on a training simulation of Mars terrain - AFP

A team of astronauts from Europe have appearing in jumpsuits and sunglasses at the desert in Oman, what are they doing?

Astronauts from the Austrian Space Forum, a volunteer-based collective, have arrived to the desert in Oman to prepare for Mars simulation exercises.

The mission of the exercises is to train astronauts for terrestrial Mars, and the terrain of the Omani desert seems to be the closest thing to the red planet on Earth.

The four-week simulation mission will be taking place as soon as February next year, and is expected to pave way for future manned missions to Mars.

“We want to simulate Mars on Earth and so we need a place that looks as much like Mars as possible. And we found it here in Oman,” Alexander Soucek, lead flight director of the AMADEE-18 mission, told AFP.

“Here the humans coming from Earth will land after six months travel through space… Simulated, of course! When we fly to Mars, in reality, we will need as many questions as possible already answered so that we are really well prepared,” he added.

The Oman desert mission will include projects such as trying to grow plants without soil in inflatable hydroponic greenhouses, and testing an autonomous rover that maps out terrains.

It hoped that the team will learn much about the complications a Mars missions has, and hope to overcome them here on Earth before actually reaching our closest neighbor.

A series of lectures are also part of the project and will take place at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, with hundreds of young students expected to attend.

Covered by private grants from donors in the industry, the project is estimated to cost as much as half a million Euros.

A trip to Mars might be a far fetched dream for the average Joe, but the desert in Oman will always be a plane ticket away.

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