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Jason DavisFebruary 15, 2018

Simulating Mars in the Middle East

This month, 25 countries are participating in a simulated Mars mission in southern Oman, near the borders of Yemen and Saudi Arabia. There, in the barren Dhofar Desert, temperatures can top 51 degrees Celsius (125 degrees Fahrenheit), making it a pretty inhospitable spot for humans—just like Mars. The mission, AMADEE-18 (PDF press kit), lasts four weeks, during which five astronauts will live in inflatable habitats and conduct experiments ranging from growing produce to operating robotic field rovers.

I know about planetary analog missions in general, but mostly just the NASA ones, such as HERA, NEEMO, and Desert RATS. AMADEE is a project of the Austrian Space Forum, a group that links up various corners of Austria's space industry. 

I heard about AMADEE from Sam McNeil, an Associated Press reporter who covers the Middle East and North Africa. Sam and I graduated together from the University of Arizona. He visited the AMADEE-18 crew earlier this month, and although I can't re-post his AP work, I can link to it! First, here's the written story and a very nice photo gallery:

Mars on Earth: Simulation tests in remote desert of Oman

Here's a cool 360-degree video of the base camp and rovers:

Please accept marketing-cookies to watch this video.

And here's some B-roll:

Please accept marketing-cookies to watch this video.

You can also follow the mission via the Austrian Space Forum on Twitter, or their social media manager, Olivia Hader. Here are a few tweets about the mission:

#PictureOfTheDay 📷 An Analog Astronaut conducting an experiment called Water Explorer; it aims to find subsurface water. It's one of our junor researcher experiments. Photo: (c) OeWF (Florian Voggeneder, @voggeneder). https://t.co/mmpdhG6V1r #simulateMars #AMADEE18 pic.twitter.com/nwxktzlR9g

— Austr. Space Forum (@oewf) February 11, 2018

Sunsets on #simulateMars are soo beautiful and we get them nearly every day ❤️ #AMADEE18 pic.twitter.com/MgE8HDkGk7

— Olivia Haider 🚀🐦 (@olidax) February 10, 2018

We just landed on "Mars". #simulateMars #AMADEE18 pic.twitter.com/UERJo7g9C4

— Olivia Haider 🚀🐦 (@olidax) February 8, 2018

Space exploration is an international venture; in our field team alone we have ppl from 8 countries. Here’s some of our #womeninscience #space #simulatemars @oewf pic.twitter.com/jfGezGnzfp

— Bonnie Posselt (@Bonposselt) February 12, 2018

EVAs (Exta-vehicular activities) are probably the most demanding activity we perform as analog astronauts. They require a good physical condition, but also knowing your experiments quite well and being able to solve problems quickly and effectively. #AMADEE18 @oewf pic.twitter.com/BX1iWTRO2W

— Joao Lousada (@Astro_Joao) February 12, 2018

#PictureOfTheDay 📷 Michael Müller working on his experiment A3DAPT-2-Mars looks pretty space-like, doesn't it? #amadee18 #simulatemars
Photo: (c) OeWF (Florian Voggeneder @voggeneder). https://t.co/S4TMpn7A05 pic.twitter.com/2UX8xsCjlr

— Austr. Space Forum (@oewf) February 10, 2018

Read more: Earth analogs

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Jason Davis

Digital Editor for The Planetary Society
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