From November 22 to 28, a team of seven people will be isolated in Grotta do Natal, located on the island of Terceira, Azores, with the aim of simulating a mission to the Moon and understanding whether there is a possibility that an astronaut could live inside a volcanic structure.
Crew Zero, led by Ana Pires and Yvette Gonzalez, will spend the night over seven days and six nights, becoming the first to spend the night in a lava tube. The characteristics and biodiversity of the cave will be used as a scientific and research context.
“Inside the Natal cave, the Zero crew will conduct several experiments related to biosensory monitoring and human behavior,” explains Anna Pires, INESCTEC researcher and CAMões project coordinator. Saturday. He added that they will also conduct “studies related to astrobiology, geochemistry, geophysical tests, geological and geotechnical characterization to study the stability of the cave, as well as test geotechnical techniques, as well as mapping the cave.” .
Anna Pires says that the mission control team, which will be outside the cave, “will take care of all the logistics and ensure safety, in addition to the medical team that will ensure any emergency or necessary medical intervention.”
Camoes Project, Analog caving mission to explore oceans, land and spaceWhich is led by the association Mountain climbers This mission, co-led by INESCTEC, is the first of its kind in Portugal. “This is the first project involving a similar lunar mission carried out inside a cave in the Azores and Portugal,” says Ana Pires.
In addition to collecting scientific data, the project will “simulate a mission to the Moon, inside a volcanic structure of this type (lava tube), in order to understand the geotechnical stability of the cave, and whether and how it is possible for an astronaut to live in this type of structure.” And simulate the normal activities of a mission of this type,” says Anna Pires.
The activities to be simulated consist of moments from a person’s daily life, such as eating meals, personal hygiene, physical exercise and monitoring the astronaut’s health. They will also test techniques and science.
The INESCTEC researcher explains that the Natal cave was chosen because it is “a lava tube and a natural volcanic structure, very similar to lava tubes that have already been identified, both on the Moon and on Mars, in terms of geological characteristics.”
This type of structure has been studied by NASA and the European Space Agency – the US and European space agencies, respectively – Environments Which can be used to protect astronauts from radiation. The cave was monitored by the association leading the project and the University of the Azores, in order to understand its safety.
Sensors showed that levels of carbon dioxide and radon (a radioactive gas) were “no cause for concern,” says Anna Pires. The researcher also highlights that the duration of the stay in the cave is short, only one week, which reduces the possibility of something happening.
It is expected that in 2024, the Natal cave will be a new site for similar missions, open to “the national and international scientific community, for further studies and missions,” the project coordinator said.
The CAMões project aims to put Portugal and the Azores region on the map for similar tasks. It also aims to provide “A Test bed “For the scientific community, but above all, to provide a training site for real astronauts for ESA and NASA regarding planetary geology,” explains Anna Pires.
There is also an educational component in terms of implementing different activities to motivate young people in these types of areas. Anna Pires also points out that the project enhances the role of women in space exploration, on a mission that includes 16 people, eight of whom are women.
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