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Astronauts set to begin ‘Mars mission’ in Omani desert

A team of six astronauts from the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) will descend on the stark landscape of Oman’s Dhofar desert next month to live in isolation and conduct a series of experiments in an exercise that simulates a mission to Mars.

The simulation exercise will be held in partnership with the Oman National Steering Committee for AMADEE-18, or the Mars Analogue Mission, and will go on for four weeks. The test site spans 120 square miles across the Dhofar desert – an area chosen as a ‘fake red planet’ because of its resemblance to the forbidding Martian landscape.

The astronauts will live there for a month in almost complete isolation, in an attempt to simulate what a mission to Mars would be like. The exercise is being described by the OeWF as a “dress rehearsal” for future missions to the red planet, and will carry out 19 experiments curated to search for traces of life. The six-member crew has already undergone a rehearsal session in Innsbruck, Austria, where the field crew and Mission Support Centre finalised the details of the experiments.

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