Last updated November 21, 2017 at 2:51 pm
A group of European astronauts including Italian Samantha Cristoforetti have gone back to school to prepare for an upcoming Mars and Moon simulation on the Canary Island of Lanzarote.
The team are part of the PANGAEA project by the European Space Agency, which has seen them intensively studying the geology of the solar system. The training will equip the astronauts with the perspective of a geologist in preparation to become explorers for missions to the Moon, Mars and asteroids.
The astronauts have been learning from field geologists to develop the knowledge and skills to be able to operate self-sufficiently and obtain scientific data, should they or others get the opportunity to explore another planetary body. This knowledge includes being able to understand the formation of rocks and geological sites, and identify the best locations to explore and collect samples. An additional part of this is learning the proper lingo to be able to communicate with each other, and potentially geologists on the ground.
The next stop for the astronauts will be to the Spanish Canary Island of Lanzarote, where the crew will explore and collect samples, putting their field geology and planetary observation techniques to the test. The mission to the island will also give ESA engineers an opportunity to try out space exploration mission protocols and operations while still on the safety of Earth.
Lanzarote is a perfect place for the astronaut-geologists to put their skills to the test, with the volcanic islands creating lava plains reminiscent of the Moon, and volcanoes similar to Mars. In their week on Lanzarote they will spend time studying interesting geological formations, and learning about and assessing the most likely places to find traces of life. This knowledge and the protocols they develop will be able to be replicated on other planets.
Video courtesy of ESA – European Space Agency