Scientists studying Oman samples for future Mars mission

Experts are trying to come up with promising techniques to prepare astronauts for future mission to Mars

Muscat: A four-week mission conducted by an international group of scientists in Oman’s Dhofar desert region earlier this year has come up promising techniques to sustain a future mission to Mars.

The scientists focused on gathering samples and scientific data for analysis, and on developing techniques for a possible travel to the Red Planet in the future.

Among their achievements, the scientists were able to harvest vegetables and determine the physical and psychological states of the crew from only voice recordings.

Dr. Gernot Groemer from the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF)

The exercise, which was led by Dr. Gernot Groemer from the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF), was conducted in Dhofar because of its terrain is similar to that of Mars.

The €5.5 million AMADEE 18 Mars simulation mission integrated 16 different scientific institutions from six nations conducting 19 experiments in the Omani desert, with the OeWF conducting the data analysis in cooperation with the Omani Astronomical Society and National Steering Committee of the expedition.

“Southern Oman’s dusty red landscape has provided a ‘sneak-preview’ of how a mission to the Red Planet could not only look like but also feel like. AMADEE18 also helps emphasize Oman’s global contribution to science and education,” Groemer told Gulf News.

Among the most striking experiments conducted by the mission was HortExtreme—the growing of plants and vegetables in a mobile, inflatable, vertical farming system for the soil-less cultivation of microgreens.

The experiment resulted in a successful harvest of radishes and watercress, an aquatic plant species used in salads.

“The ‘Rambo Radish’ harvest sprouted only 15 days after planting, in one of the most impressive feats achieved during the mission.

A team of 40 international space experts in Canada, Austria, Germany and the UK are now studying the mission’s findings.

It will take several months for the experts to sift through and analyse geological samples taken from the Dhofar desert.

“The exploration of the samples will lead to an exploration of the Omani sand that has never been done on such a high calibration,” Groemer said.

In a separate development, a 1.7km stretch of dried-out riverbed (Wadi) was discovered by the Italian ground-penetrating radar, ScanMars.

Finding riverbeds on Mars would be a milestone in learning about the Red Planet’s past water reserves.

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