On Tuesday, August 15, 2017, starts the first Polish lunar analog mission in the first Polish space habitat Lunares in Pila. The mission is called Lunar Expedition 1, and it will last two weeks, during which six analog astronauts will simulate the operation of the base on the Moon. The main purpose of the mission is to conduct scientific experiments on time perception. Because of that, the astronauts will be completely isolated from the outside world – they won’t know the exact time of the day or if the sun shines outside of the habitat or not. The astronauts will be able to leave the habitat only to go inside an airplane hangar, where the surface of the Moon is simulated.
Lunar Expedition 1 is an analog mission that simulates the operation of a space base on the Moon. It will take place in the Lunares habitat located in Pila, western Poland, created by Space Garden company. During two weeks, six analog astronauts will conduct research on many critical issues to space flight and lunar base operations.
The most important experiment during Lunar Expedition 1 will be research on the subjective time perception and biological clock. It is well known, that astronauts are isolated from natural sunlight during a stay in space, what implies desynchronization of metabolic circadian cycles, decreases immunity, sleep quality and concentration. During two weeks of isolation from the external world, analog astronauts will be completely cut off from outside time, sunlight and urban noise. They can leave the hab only to an airplane hangar where the surface of the Moon is simulated. Lighting inside the habitat will be remotely controlled from the Mission Control Center located in the European Space Agency facility in the Netherlands.
These studies can serve not only future astronauts but also people living on Earth, such as shift workers or people suffering from jet lag – difficulty in adjusting to a new time zone after flying to a distant place.
Other experiments during the mission will focus on group dynamics and stress under isolation as well as biological life support systems and management of limited resources such as water. A hydroponic plant cultivation system was installed in the biological laboratory in cooperation with the Institute of Design in Kielce.
The analog astronauts were carefully selected for this mission because of their psychophysical and occupational skills. Among the crew of Lunar Expedition 1 are, for example, astronomers and engineers (click on the astronaut name to get his bio).
The Mission Control Center is located in the European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, where Agata Kołodziejczyk P.hD is working. She is the originator of Lunares habitat and Lunar Expedition 1 mission organizer.
At the Mission Control Center in the Netherlands there will be an international team responsible for various aspects of the mission:
Agata Kołodziejczyk (Flight Director, Science Data Officer)
Bernard Foing ILEWG /ESTEC (support form ESTEC, instruments, investigations & Co-funding)
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.
Next missions in 2017
In 2017 two more missions will take place in the Lunares habitat. In September, an educational mission for kids will be held, called Moon for Youth. In October mission ICAres-1 will take place with an international team of analog astronauts, including one disabled person. This unique experiment will test the habitat ergonomics and less optimistic scenarios of space missions.
Polish astronaut program
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. ”
European Space Agency has the vision to create Moon Village. Lunar Expedition 1 is aligned with this vision by conducting scientific research and simulating the Moon’s base.
The next year new analog missions are planned, and recruitment for new analog astronauts will be open. Lunares habitat and analog missions organized in the hab are held with hope to open in the future Polish astronaut program and send another Pole in space.