Mars team to hold 19 simulation experiments

MUSCAT: The Mars Analog Mission team on Wednesday headed to the Marmul desert in the Governorate of Dhofar to launch AMADEE-18, a satellite simulation project. Hosted by Oman, the project is one of the country’s contributions to space research in space/scientific exploration aimed at raising the level of technology readiness and developing systems that support the life of astronauts. Osama al Busaidi, Deputy Chairman of the Oman Astronomical Society, said: “The first stage of the project, which began on January 31, will continue until February 8.”

It is an “open period”, during which invited guests, interested parties, journalists and media representatives from inside and outside the Sultanate can visit the region.  “Starting February 9, the crew will spend three weeks (until March 1) in complete isolation, but will be closely monitored by a team,” he said. The crew comprises 16 people from France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal and Oman, represented by Al Busaidi. He said: “The team will conduct 19 simulation experiments, including tests of spacecraft and robots to collect samples and their movements on a similar surface and their ability to take samples and information and send them to the information centre located in Austria. Some experiments will be shown live on social networking sites.”

AMADEE -18 is an experiment on life in Mars, preceded by experiments on a frozen glacier in the Alps, another in an open cave in southern Spain and yet another in the Moroccan desert. A meeting was held under the auspices of Dr Mohammed bin Hamad al Rumhy, Minister of Oil and Gas. It was attended by Dr Shaikh al Khattab bin Ghalib al Hinai, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Public Authority for Civil Aviation and the Chairman of Strategic Planning Committee of the Oman Astronomical Society. Al Hinai said the Omani and Austrian teams had worked hard in the past few months to prepare for the programme.

Speaking about the desert experiment in a seminar, Dr Gernot Gromer, President, Austrian Space Forum, said the decision to hold experiments in the Sultanate include not only the geological and topographic properties, but also political and the high level of security in the country. “It provides a comfortable atmosphere for the crew and teams of the project, which will put the Sultanate on the map of space research,” he added. — ONA