Source: TripAdvisor. You can read the original text here
After years of research and development, Astroland has created “Ares Station” a scientific space station which has been developed to replicate the hostile conditions of Mars within a specifically selected cave, 60 meters high and 1.5km long, in Arredondo, Spain, totally isolated from human contact.
The idea is to learn more about not just the physical, but the societal impact living in such a colony would have. Candidates have to apply for their position on the expedition and pass physical and psychological tests before they are accepted. Special equipment has to be worn and no contact is allowed with the outside world.
This unique experience will last for a full 30 days. Although the time spent in the cave is up to three days, it requires a comprehensive three week remote training program, and another three days of physical and psychological training at the Astroland facilities. Each mission has a maximum capacity of 10 people.
The chosen team will also have at their disposal direct online access to aerospace experts and reputable psychologists, such as Gabriel González de la Torre, doctor of Neuropsychology at the University of Cádiz and one of the few leading astronaut psychologists from Spain, and also Iñigo Muñoz Elorza, instructor of astronauts in the European Astronaut Center, part of the European Space Agency.
Once the first phase of the mission is completed in accordance with the previous remote preparation, the Astrolanders move to the Astroland Space Center, located in the Science and Technology Park of Cantabria. Over the course of three days, the future mission protagonists learn how to carry out spacewalks by participating in speleology (caving) training, natural buoyancy tests that simulate the states of weightlessness, and will also receive training in emergency plans which will allow them to act in the case of adverse circumstances
After this second stage, the fully-prepared crew enter the cave. Inside, they will have the basics for survival during the three-day period, while they experiment and test what human life would be like on Mars. Specially-designed astronaut suits, technical clothing, laboratories for the growth of plants under impossible conditions, life capsules, lyophilized food, and a long list of tools which will make life in the cave much easier for our Astrolanders.
Candidates must be in good physical and emotional state to apply. Once in the selection process, Astroland’s psychological team will arrange an interview with a specialised psychologist, upon whose feedback Astroland will approve (or not) the candidate’s participation in the program. Astroland reserves the right to refuse admission.
Week 1 to 3 – Training
Once candidates are accepted, and payment has cleared, they are granted access to Astroland’s virtual campus and assigned a personal tutor.
On campus, they will attend classes given by renowned professionals in each area of expertise, from real Astronaut trainers from the ESA itself, Space psychologists, and well known professors from prestigious universities. Compulsory classes will be held live every week where candidates will be able to ask questions and interact with lecturers or colleagues in real time.
There’s a total of nine teaching hours, plus all the presentations, talks, videos and information. Candidates have access to tutors and other professionals at any point during the 30 day period. Altogether this should take up around 30 hours of online training, including the nine teaching hours.
Week 1 to 3 – Training modules
- 1. Mars Mind: Maximal Astrolander Resources in Space Mind Instruction and Neurological Development: The psychological part of the training where candidates will explore and test their capabilities, endurance and resilience towards hostile environments and unexpected situations. They’ll have to submit their troubleshooting skills to heavy stress and develop new skills to be able to work under high pressure.
- 2. Mars XFit: This area covers all issues regarding welfare, fitness and nutrition, so that candidates are in perfect health to take their mission. Nutritionists will design a specific diet based upon medical records, which candidates should begin days before starting the experience. During weeks 1 to 3, candidates will be granted access to Astroland’s Mars Xfit application, where they will be able to choose a menu, including vegetarian, vegan, gluten or lactose free options. This diet must be complemented by a daily workout routine specified by Astroland’s team of trainers, before and during the mission and also for at least a week after the experience.
- 3. Mars Team: Specific technical training based on the candidate’s role. Depending on which role has been assigned, they will be shown how to operate devices, lab equipment, gadgets and so on that they will use on their EVA (ExtraVehicular Activities).
- 4. H+: Augmented Humanity, this is a term coined by Astroland as a nod to Augmented Reality.
In a similar way as R+ superimposes information, sounds, text, images etc on the world we see, at Astroland the aim is to establish true human values on the Red Planet. Principles such as respect, cooperation and teamwork, goodwill, kindness, along with environmental consciousness, sustainability and zero waste policies are the DNA of Astroland and they are a MUST for this groundbreaking enterprise to thrive.
Finish training modules. Astroland’s board of experts will decide upon the potential Astrolander’s performance on the course. If they pass, they are invited onto the next expedition and travel is arranged to Santander for on site training and the cave stay itself.
The final countdown!
- T-7 Delivery of course accreditation and permits
- T-6 Recording of farewell message
- T-5 Appointment of people to be sent the farewell message
- T-4 Departure journey from home town (or specified location) to Santander
- T-3 Arrival to Santander airport and transfer to hotel, followed by reception and briefing
- T-2 Breakfast, followed by departure to Astroland Space Center
- Tour of Space Center
- Departure to climbing wall for training, rope climbing, Speleology and abseiling practical
- Equipment introduction and test
- Back to hotel and rest time
- T-1 Breakfast and departure for Astroland Space Center
- Arrival at Astroland Space Center
- Mars team and equipment testing
- Archaeology and psychology briefings
- Mars Mind workshop
- Return to hotel and rest
- T-0 Breakfast and departure to Ares Station
- Arrival at Ares Station
- Spacesuit entry
- Skyline breakthrough and leaving the module
- Setting out to the Dome at Ares Station
- Arrival at the Dome and first space center connection test
Mission Day 1
- 07.45 – Wake up time
- 08.00 – Wash and breakfast
- 08.45 – Dome equipment check
- 09.15 – Team Meeting: Revise day’s schedule
- 09.45 – Working on tasks according to schedule
- 12.00 – BREAK
- 12.15 – Working on tasks according to schedule
- 14.15 – LUNCH
- 15.15 – BREAK
- 16:15 – End of day’s assigned tasks
- 18:15 – Drawing conclusions
- 18.45 – Workout time
- 19.45 – Individual reports
- 20.30 – Dinner
Mission Day 2
- 07.00 – Wake up, wash and breakfast
- 08.00 – Dome equipment set up
- 08.30 – Expedition to the lake
- 10.30 – Break and snacks
- 11.45 – Working on tasks according to schedule
- 13.45 – Back to the Dome
- 14.45 – Lunch time gathering
- 15.45 – Drawing conclusions on the days work
- 16.45 – Connection to Space Center
- 17.45 – Workout session
- 18.15 – Free time
- 19.45 – Dinner time
Mission Day 3
- 09.00 – Getting ready to leave AresStation
- 12.00 – End of mission, meet with media
- 14.00 – Depart for hotel
- 20.00 – Awards ceremony and photocall
- 20.30 – Gala dinner
- 23.00 – Mars30 Mission over
And there’s more…..
What are the adverse circumstances that people are trained for within the emergency plan?
Evacuation and emergency plan, rope climbing, speleology, abseiling, first aid, rescue and self-rescue techniques. These could include fire protocol, slips, trips and falls, nearly missed accident assessments, risk assessments, fractures, and psychological training to prevent and control anxiety, claustrophobia, and stress control.
What special equipment needs to be worn whilst inside the cave?
An Astrolander spacesuit must be worn at all times and in all parts of the cave apart from when they are in the living unit (dome). This provides ventilation, and hydration systems as well as radio communications and devices for improving visibility, torches and cameras.
Is the crew of guests accompanied by a guide once inside the cave?
No. The Astrolanders will be left by themselves at all times within the cave to make the most of this analogue experience. However, they are being monitored 24 hours from the Space Center and there is an on call team at the cave location for rapid support.
If there is an emergency whilst the guests are inside the cave, how quickly are they able to receive help?
The on call team should be able to react in situ within the first 30 minutes, while the Space Center will contact 112 (emergency service) whom are already aware of the mission before it starts, and further technical and medical support should be there within an hour.
Can guests leave earlier than the set period should they feel it is an experience that’s not for them/no longer comfortable in completing the task?
Yes they can, but they will first meet with psychologists to ensure they are making the right decision.
If they still want to leave, a prompt exit protocol is implemented. Candidates will forfeit all fees and will be taken to Santander to make their own way home.
Is there more detail around the living quarters? For instance are there beds? Will people be able to shower? Go to the toilet?
The dome or living unit consists of sleeping area (individual bunk beds), welfare facilities (vacuum toilet), with personal hygiene kits (antibacterial sponges and wipes, towels, oral hygiene) but no shower as such. There is also a leisure are where they can relax, chat and rest and also a well-equipped workout area.
Regarding sustenance, is water provided in addition to the lyophilized food?
Water consumption for eating and drinking is rationed to 5.5 litres per Astrolander per day.