Just a few months ago, a team of Catalan scientists undertook a curious journey with extraterrestrial overtones. In mid-April, a group made up of astrophysicists, biologists, engineers, mathematicians and journalists landed in a ‘Martian simulator’ located in the middle of utah desert (United States) and for 12 days they lasted under the same conditions in which, one day, the future inhabitants of the red planet could live. «It has been quite an adventure», the members of the first Hypatia mission explain enthusiastically, now back in Barcelona, after announcing the call for a second expedition of Catalan women on Mars in 2025.
As explained Mariona Badenas-Agusti, the commander of this first Hypatia mission, the ‘stay’ on Mars has been especially marked by restrictions. «We had to reduce our water consumption, ration food and communications representative with the Earth as it would happen if we were really on Mars», argues Badenas-Agustí during the presentation of the results of this mission, held this Friday in La Pedrera. «There were days when you missed a good shower but, for luck, thanks to the help of the other colleagues even these limitations were not an obstacle to the mission,» says Nuria Jar Benabarrejournalist on board this project, in an interview with EL PERIÓDICO.
During the stay in the Martian simulator, the crew members of the Hypatia mission consumed an average of 13.4 liters of water per day (less than 12% compared to the daily consumption of a citizen of Barcelona). His menu consisted mainly in dehydrated products (such as dehydrated grated cheese, eggs, fruits and vegetables) and, to a lesser extent, in fresh grown food in the greenhouse of the Martian station (and which, according to the studies carried out to date, are compatible with future extraterrestrial crops where fast-growing species that require few resources will be needed).
According to the ‘astronauts’, during the mission they collected 713 grams of cucumber, 498 grams of cherry tomatoes, 269 grams of green sprouts for salad and various aromatic plants such as, for example, 14 grams of mint and 1 gram of basil. «We ate an average of half a cherry tomato per person per day,» he says. laia ribas, responsible for the greenhouse. The Catalan scientists also left planted food that, in the future, will be harvested by the next inhabitants of this Martian habitat developed by the Mars Society, which can be found from a biology and geology laboratory to several space observatories, rooms to develop engineering projects and living areas for the crew members.
«We ate about half a cherry tomato per person per day»
One of the most exciting parts of this mission, according to the crew members themselves, were the extravehicular exits. That is, the excursions on the ‘Martian soil’. Continuing with the logic of the simulation, every time the scientists wanted to get out of their extraterrestrial habitat they had to follow a strict security protocol, plan the route step by step and put on space suits (with diving helmet included). «When I stepped on ‘Martian soil’ for the first time, against all odds, I felt very calm. We had prepared everything very carefully and thoroughly reviewed all the steps that I felt that nothing could go wrong«, Explain carla rabbit gonzalezMission Director General.
«When I stepped on ‘Martian soil’ for the first time, against all odds, I felt very calm»
carla rabbit gonzalez
Another of the factors that has marked this mission the most has been the communications restriction. The crew members of this project, in fact, went from being permanently connected to their mobiles (as happens in almost all corners of the Earth) to being able to connect to the internet during a maximum of three hours a day (Time that, for the most part, they have to dedicate to the preparation of scientific reports on on-board missions and extravehicular departures). During their stay on Mars, in addition, the scientists will not be able to communicate in real time with families and friends because, following the logic of the simulation, «the signals will take between 3 and 20 minutes to travel between Earth and Mars«.
«One of the most beautiful memories that I take with me from this mission is the feeling of team that we created together»
Ariadna Farres Basiana
«One of the most beautiful memories that I take with me from this mission is the feeling of team that we create together«, Explain Ariadna Farres Basiana, head of health and safety at Hipatia. «We all helped each other both in extravehicular departures and in scientific experiments. At times when someone felt overloaded, there was always someone willing to lend a hand,» adds the scientist, recalling her days on Mars in Utah.