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Turning astronauts into moon explorers

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ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson perform microbiological sampling inside the Corona lava cave on Lanzarote, Spain, during the 2022 Pangea training campaign. Credit: ESA – A. Romeo

ESA’s geology training course PANGEA Acta Astronautica It describes the quest to design the best possible geological training for the next astronaut to walk on the moon.

Since 2016, PANGEA has trained 10 astronauts from 3 space agencies with the basic field geology knowledge and skills required for spaceflight. lunar exploration.

Humanity is returning to the moon, and soon the Artemis astronauts will participate in the planning and execution of geological surveys on the moon’s surface.

“With five editions of the course now under our belts, this is the right time to bring our experience to a wider space. exploration community,” explains PANGEA training coordinator Samuel Payler.

Future moonwalkers will be in a privileged position to explore the lunar surface, but they will also feel the pressure to make quick and sound scientific decisions.

“We hope this publication will help other space agencies involved in training for future planetary missions and encourage further international cooperation,” adds Samuel.

astronaut motivation

This publication outlines the approach the team used to train astronauts for space exploration. lunar surface.

“From our experience, astronauts perform best when given a moderate degree of autonomy. Academician and Pangea instructor Matteo Massironi explains.

During PANGAEA, training becomes complicated and astronauts face challenges in real environments. As trainees progress, they experience a shift in perspective and find motivation to pursue scientific discoveries.

“We don’t want them to act as robots, we want them to be the most effective field scientists they can be. We train them to make decisions with the support of the public,” he adds.

Moon-focused astronauts receive world-class geology training during ESA’s fifth Pangea campaign. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and his NASA Stephanie Wilson attended the course to learn how to read landscapes, collect scientifically relevant rocks, and effectively communicate geological observations. From selecting landing sites for future Artemis missions to designing moonwalk science operations, this course challenges a space explorer to become his scientist in the field.Credit: ESA-V. Klob

Apollo’s Legacy

The foundation of the development of Pangea was the review of the training conducted during the Apollo era. Nearly 50 years after the demise of Apollo, it remains the only example of a space program where geological training was essential to mission success.

“Train them, trust them, let them go” has been the motto of mission-oriented training for the last three Apollo programs. This was the most productive in scientific discovery. His PANGEA training in Europe builds on the Apollo program legacy.

After initial classroom lessons, a team of instructors and some of Europe’s leading planetary geologists will gradually give the astronauts more time to explore independently.

Geology training will take you to Italy’s Dolomites, known for their pristine sedimentary deposits, Germany’s Ries impact crater, the volcanic island of Lanzarote in Spain, and the fjords of Norway’s Lofoten archipelago to explore rocks similar to those found on the Moon. learn about highlands.

The similarities between these European sites and the geology of the Moon and Mars bring realism to exploration.

exploration upgrade

Although inspired by the legacy of the Apollo era, Pangea incorporates many of the advances in technology and scientific knowledge that have taken place since the 1970s.

Pangea Course Director Francesco Sauro explains:

In 2017, the team began developing a new system for recording, structuring, and distributing information collected in the field, including images, data from analytical tools, 3D maps, and voice memos. The result of this development is the Electronic Field Book, a unique tool that makes sampling more efficient.

the future is now

Even if PANGEA is not a training course for a specific mission, it will be updated to be relevant to current exploration scenarios. “It adapts to what the future of space exploration looks like,” said Francesco.

“We want to provide useful training to prepare astronauts for specific NASA missions. training In build-up to Artemis,” he adds.

The team wants to share the experience gained over the years. “We feel the course has reached maturity and has something worth contributing to the planetary science community and future astronauts,” says Francesco.

For more information:
Francesco Sauro et al., Training astronauts for scientific exploration on planetary surfaces: the ESA PANGEA programme, Acta Astronautica (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2022.12.034

Quote: Turning astronauts into moon explorers (02/02/2023) Retrieved 02/02/2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-02-astronauts-moon-explorers.html

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