Analog Mars mission ICAres-1 begins

On Sunday 8th October at 12:00 am starts the ICAres-1 analog Martian mission in the Lunares habitat. The mission will last two weeks, while six analog astronauts simulate a mission on Mars. ICAres-1’s main goal is to carry out world-class scientific experiments, test innovative treatments, and simulate an extreme version of a space mission where one of the astronauts is a disabled person.

ICAres-1 goals

ICAres-1 (Innovative Concepts Ares) is an analog astronaut mission that simulates the operation of a base on Mars. It will take place in Lunares habitat in Pila, Poland, and will last two weeks during which the analog astronauts will be closed in the base and isolated from the outside world. Communication with them will be delayed by 20 minutes in order to simulate distance between Earth and Mars.

During the mission, the analog astronauts will conduct experiments in the field of biology, medicine, psychology and new technologies. “The experiments will include inventions and devices constructed by Polish manufacturers and entrepreneurs, such as innovative Blumil wheelchair, a bionic prosthesis of the hand from VBionic company, or food prepare for extreme conditions produced in Poland.

Medical experiments take place under the auspices of the Poznan University of Medical Sciences as part of the Laboratory of Extreme Medicine (LEM) “- says Aleksander Waśniowski (MD), initiator, and organizer of ICAres-1 mission.

Astronauts during the ICAres-1 mission will be conducting experiments on the perception of time and the biological clock. It was in the field of chronobiology that this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded. Research in this area is essential for astronauts in space as well as for us on Earth. Astronauts during space missions are completely isolated from sunlight, causing sleep disorders, day and night rhythm, and difficulty concentrating. Analog astronauts locked up in the Lunares habitat during the ICAres-1 mission will be completely cut off from the outside world – they will not know what the real time is and is it day or night. Lighting inside the habitat will be remotely controlled from the headquarters of the European Space Agency in the Netherlands, where Agata Kołodziejczyk Ph.D., the originator of the Lunares habitat, is working. These studies may serve not only future astronauts but also people living on Earth, such as shift workers or people suffering from jetlag, which is difficult to adjust to the time zone after arriving at a distant place on Earth.

Analog astronauts

ICAres-1 crew, from the left: Zuzanna Sobiak, Christiane Heinicke, Szczepan Rubczyński, Marcin Kaczmarzyk i Matt Harasymczuk. Not on the picture: Lucie Poulet © Anna B Gregorczyk

The ICAres-1 mission is an international mission. The mission commander is Christiane Heinicke – a German physicist and engineer who spent a year in isolation in a NASA-sponsored HI-SEAS Hawaiian habitat.

Marcin Kaczmarzyk will play a special role during the mission. Ten years ago, in an unfortunate accident, he lost sight of his left hand and three fingers of his right hand. Currently, he is an engineer and works at the Rzeszów University of Technology and writes his Ph.D. thesis on issues related to heat exchange in buildings of the future lunar base. As a very qualified person, but with a disability, Marcin Kaczmarzyk will check himself and other members of the mission and the construction of the Lunares base in this unusual situation.

All analog missions assume that the astronauts have just arrived in Mars and are starting their mission, full of energy and healthy. ICAres-1 mission doesn’t simulate the first day of a future Mars mission, it simulates day 100 or 1000, when something went wrong, there was an accident, and you have to deal with the situation. Losing sight and hands as a result of chemicals explosions can happen during a long-term expedition. Space missions are very dangerous projects, and you can not assume everything is going well. That is why analog missions are organized to test different scenarios.

ICAres-1 crew:

  • Christiane Heinicke – (Germany) Commander
  • Matt Harasymczuk – (Poland) XO – Executive Officer | Biosystems Engineer
  • Lucie Poulet – (France) Chief Engineer
  • Zuzanna Sobiak – (Poland) Chief Medical Officer
  • Marcin Kaczmarzyk – (Poland) Structural Material Scientist
  • Szczepan Rubczyński – (Poland) Chief Safety Officer

Lunares habitat

In June 2017 Space Garden company started building Lunares habitat. It was created to test the behaviour of people in isolation while they are living and working in a very small space. The habitat conditions are designed to be similar to those that future astronauts will find in the Moon or Mars base. Six analog astronauts will live in the hab, that consist only the most important modules: bedroom, kitchen, office, biological laboratory, analytical laboratory, equipment storage, gym and bathroom.

The hab was designed by Leszek Orzechowski, CEO of Space is More company, an architect specialized in space projects. Modules are arranged in a semicircle so that the space between them can also be used as a common place to rest. A dome is mounted over this free space in the center of the hab in a way that it connects all modules together. Then, the hab, is connected by a simulated airlock with the airplane hangar. Inside you won’t find a flat surface to park a plane. Interior of the hangar simulates the surface of the Moon with a lot of sand and rocks scattered all over the place. Analog astronauts will have to get dressed up in a space suit to come out “to the surface” of a simulated celestial body.

The idea to build space habitat in Poland and prepare Lunar Expedition 1 was conceived in Agata Kołodziejczyk’s mind. She is Ph.D. and a scientist working for the European Space Agency. “We have created a space habitat in Poland” – says Agata Kołodziejczyk – “because we lack a specialized laboratory for space missions in Poland, not to mention the lack of a national astronaut program. By creating such a simulated space base we can take the first small step towards the next Pole in space. ”

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