Astronauts are training for Moon and Mars missions on idyllic Spanish island

Astronauts are training for Moon an Mars trips on idyllic Spanish island. Credit: Alexander Gerst/Twitter.

Astronauts from around the world train for Moon and Mars missions on an idyllic Spanish island.

It may seem crazy at first, but apparently, European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA have been sending astronauts to this particular Canary island to train for years.

Famous for its blackened lava fields, craters, and volcanic tubes, it seems that Lanzarote’s geology can be “uncannily similar to that of the moon and Mars”, reports Taipei Times.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst, who has completed two missions on the International Space Station, is currently working in Los Volcanes Natural Park on the island, which is just off the northwest coast of Africa.

“This place has lavas that are very, very similar to the ones that we find on the moon,” said Gerst, a 46-year-old German astronaut with the ESA.

He said the island is “a unique training ground.”

Gerst is one of a dozen astronauts who have taken part in the ESA’s Pangaea training course in Lanzarote over the past 10 years.

The course, whose name is a nod to the ancient supercontinent, aims to give astronauts, space engineers, and geologists, the skills needed for expeditions to other planets, including the Moon and Mars.

Gerst has just completed the Pangea training course, which helps prepare astronauts to work in a remote setting on their own.

“If we run into a problem, we have to solve it ourselves,” he said.

The lucky few picked for the trip to Lanzarote learn how to identify rock samples before collecting them, then they conduct DNA analysis of microorganisms and communicate their findings back to mission control.

“Here, they are put into the field to experience the exploration of a terrain, which is something they will have to do on the moon,” said Francesco Sauro, technical director of the course.

Sauro, along with Stephanie Wilson – one of NASA’s most senior astronauts and Pangea graduate – are both possible candidates for NASA’s next crewed moon missions.

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Vickie S
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Vickie Scullard

A journalist of more than 12 years from Manchester, UK, Vickie now lives in Madrid and works as a news writer for the Euro Weekly News.


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