Preceding the "AMADEE-24" Mars analog research mission, the delegation from the Armenian Aerospace Agency and the Armenian Space Forum, alongside interns and experiment leads, visited Austria from January 25 to 29. During this visit, the delegation members with the teams from the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF), participated in the second and final tests of scientific experiments, as well as engaged in official meetings.
Ahead of the mission to Armenia in March, the final tests took place in Vienna. The Armenian delegation engaged in flight control and flight planning, remote science support, and on-site media team operations. Manely, Armenian interns familiarized themselves with the operational details of the Mars mission. Together with the Vienna’s Mission Support Center team, they reviewed the procedures for all scientific experiments of the mission and made necessary adjustments based on the results of real field tests. The Armenian team witnessed the process of wearing spacesuits and practicing movement by the analog astronauts.
In Dress Rehearsal 2, we have dozens of specialists, each top-notch in their field, diving into their computer screens and changing wheels. We've been working on this mission for more than two years and now is the moment to ensure that everything works flawlessly. Only if it does so, will we proceed to the next phase, shipping it on Monday into the field in Armenia with the containers. There, we will confirm its functionality akin to Mars. So, this is the last moment where all the team members come together. It’s not only about technical testing, interfaces, science, and technology but also a crucial aspect of team building." said Gernot Grömer, the Director of the Austrian Space Forum.
As the first responders and decision-makers for analog astronauts in emergency situations, the flight control team worked diligently to monitor and control the ongoing operations in a simulated Mars-like environment. The flight planning team meticulously planned each day for the analog astronauts and mission support team throughout the whole duration, considering the number of experiments and the time required for their successful execution. Additionally, the Remote Science Support Team acted as a pipeline with research teams, and a coordinator of the scientific experiments, and facilitated direct communications with the researchers to complete the main preparatory works.
After more than a year of preparation, the most anticipated initiative of the "AMADEE-24" mission will launch on March 12 in Armenia, when six analog astronauts will put spacesuits on and undergo isolation in the space station for a month.
"Armed with the necessary knowledge and skills to organize the analog mission, we return to Armenia. We are eagerly preparing to welcome the astronauts, the GOST team, and the scientists arriving in Armenia. Upon their arrival, we will have completed the construction of the A24 space station in Ararat Region. During our stay in Vienna, we were fortunate to witness the incredible effort of the whole Austrian Space forum team, as well as Armenian interns and scientists as they worked alongside academic teams from several universities. All this underscores the importance of exchanging space technologies and fostering intercultural scientific experiences. See you in March, in Armenia." said Gayane Hakobyan, "AMADEE-24" project lead in Armenia.
Marat Hayrapetyan, an Armenian intern who is a member of the AMADEE-24 flight control team, expressed his enthusiasm: "In 2021, when I moved to Armenia and learned that the Mars mission would be carried out here, I was thrilled at the prospect of participating in some capacity. My aspiration is to contribute to Mars missions as I believe in the necessity of exploring new planets for the advancement of humanity. As we approach the colonization of Mars, which is within reach, it will afford us the opportunity to study and implement cutting-edge scientific technologies."
In parallel with the tests, the Armenian delegation and the teams from the Austrian Space Forum held official meetings. Their first visit was to the Armenian Embassy in Austria.
Armenian Ambassador to Austria Armen Papikyan warmly welcomed the mission members and underscored the significance of hosting such a large international event in Armenia. He emphasized that such initiatives strengthen cooperation between the two countries, saying, "Our relations with Austria are flourishing across various areas of mutual interest. In this context, ‘AMADEE-24’ greatly complements the extensive agenda of Armenian-Austrian cooperation in education and science. The decision of the Austrian Space Forum to conduct 'AMADEE-24,' the 14th international Mars simulation, in Armenia is truly encouraging. The selection of our country reflects not only the geological and topographical similarities between the simulation site in Ararat Marz and Mars but also underscores the Armenian government's commitment to developing the space industry."
As a gesture of friendship between the two nations, Gernot Grömmer, Director of the Austrian Space Forum, presented one of the first smartwatches, a tradition where it will be temporarily hosted by the host country, Armenia, during the days of the AMADEE-24 mission.
In Vienna, the Armenian delegation and Gernot Grömer were also received by the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of Austria.
A discussion regarding the execution of the "AMADEE-24" mission in Armenia took place with Franziska Honsowitz, Director of the Department for International Scientific Cooperation and Dialogue, Arnold Obermayr, Head of Unit for Scientific Cooperation and Science Diplomacy, and the ministry's delegation. They expressed their readiness to support the program's continuity through university exchanges and the development and promotion of scientific and educational initiatives.
The analog research will take place in Armenia's Ararat region, specifically on a high rocky plateau selected for its geological and topographical resemblance to the Martian landscape. A team of highly trained analog astronauts will conduct experiments with various rovers and robotics in a space station simulator, preparing for future human and robotic exploration missions to Mars. The construction of the simulation space station is backed by PROFAL, a leading Armenian aluminum doors and windows manufacturer, which is providing the essential conditions for the isolation of analog astronauts. "Any initiative aimed at enhancing recognition and fortifying Armenia's global reputation is at the heart of our attention. We sincerely hope that the international cooperation formed within the framework of 'AMADEE-24' will produce the desired results, contributing to the analogue studies of Mars," stated Edgar Avetisyan, the General Director of PROFAL GROUP.
Armenia is set to host the prestigious Mars Analog Research Program ("AMADEE-24") from March 5 to April 5, 2024, marking a significant event in the field of analog space technology research. AMADEE, a flagship research program of the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF), aims to advance equipment, work processes, and scientific research relevant to other celestial bodies by simulating conditions found on Mars here on Earth. Previous analog missions took place in Morocco (2013), Austria (2015), Oman (2018), and the Negev desert of Israel (2021). For the 2024 edition, Armenia emerged as the chosen host country over Australia, Egypt, and Tunisia. The project is organized by the "Armenian Aerospace Agency" and the "Armenian Space Forum," with management overseen by the "Austrian Space Forum." The mission will see the participation of 250 scientists from Armenia and abroad. The analog astronaut flight crew comprises leading scientists from Austria, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Israel, and other nations.
The Austrian Space Forum (Österreichisches Weltraum Forum, OeWF) is a private space research institution and a network for spaceflight specialists, business/industry and people interested in space. The forum conducts Mars Analog Missions on a regular basis, involving scientists and institutions from all over the world. The OeWF is playing a leading role in two international Cube-Sat missions that have been detecting space debris in Near Earth Orbit since 2022. They cooperate with international research institutions and companies and are in constant dialog with the media and decision makers. With 250 members from 20+ nations, the Austrian Space Forum focuses on scientific excellence, starts, shapes and networks careers and has been inspiring people all over the world since 1998.