Photo Gallery Testing the Mars Space Suit

Volunteers and professionals at the Austrian Space Forum are testing a prototype Mars space suit in a series of ice caves that provide conditions similar to those on the Red Planet. Humanity is still far away from a manned mission to the planet, but the enthusiasts here believe it will actually happen one day.
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The Austrian Space Forum (ÖWF) is testing equipment for a possible expedition to Mars at the Dachstein ice caves near Obertraun, a mountainous village in central Austria.

Foto: SPIEGEL ONLINE
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The Aousa.X space suit, developed in Austria, won't ever fly to Mars, but researchers are wearing it while carrying out tests to rehearse in conditions similar to those on the Red Planet.

Foto: SPIEGEL ONLINE
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Posing for the cameras: Rubber expanders at each joint of the suit make every movement laborious, but astronauts would experience the same conditions on Mars.

Foto: Barbara Gindl/ dpa
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Here, researchers gather inside the Dachstein ice caves, which feature about 13,000 cubic meters of ice -- some as old as 500 years.

Foto: SPIEGEL ONLINE
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Daniel Schildhammer, a space suit tester, is equipped with gear weighing 45 kilograms. It takes him two hours to get dressed.

Foto: SPIEGEL ONLINE
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An interesting testing area: Mars is also home to cave systems, even if they were created in a different way than those at Austria's Dachstein ice caves. Constant temperatures, higher humidity and protection from cosmic rays might make such caves predestined to be attractive to simple life forms.

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While broadband was installed in the ice cave, this kind of communication would not be possible on Mars.

Foto: SPIEGEL ONLINE
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While the tester makes his way through the ice cave, mission control monitors his every move. The data travels from a clunky antenna to the radio network and finally to a simulated ground station further downhill in a room that is part of a restaurant.

Foto: LISI NIESNER/ REUTERS
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Testing technology: A dozen experiments are being carried out at the same time in the cave. Here, the Mars rover Magma trundles over a sheet of ice. On board the Magma is the Wisdom radar system, which will be used on the next European mission to Mars and can analyze rock at depths of up to three meters.

Foto: SPIEGEL ONLINE
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Given that the space suit weighs 45 kilograms, it is extremely important to walk carefully in it.

Foto: SPIEGEL ONLINE
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"Cheers!" The suit tester can quench his thirst by drinking from a special mouthpiece in the helmut of his suit. A special in-built "Uridom" ensures that what Schildhammer takes in, he can also let out.

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The Austrian team has also experimented in the past with a suit that allows a cereal bar to be passed through the helmut. In this case, however, the tester prefers to be fed directly into his mouth.

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Fast food is usually served at the restaurant where the organizers have set up their mission control. At the moment, though, the space if being used to test the vital statistics of the suit testers instead.

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Extreme conditions: The Austrian team already tested its suit in a semi-desert area in southern Spain in April 2011. In the coming year, they want to continue their experiements in Morocco

Foto: REUTERS / ÖWF / Paul Santek
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Aouda.X in action: The unique suit was named after a character in a novel by Jules Verne. In the classic "Around the World in 80 Days," the Indian princess Aouda steals the heart of the novel's protagonist and hero, Phileas Fogg.

Foto: LISI NIESNER/ REUTERS
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Project leader Gernot Grömer says he is grateful for every problem his team encounters because it means that they experience them here, rather than on Mars.

Foto: Barbara Gindl/ dpa
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A mobile toolbox: Testers of the Mars space suit carry their tools in a special box attached near the protective gear's chest.

Foto: SPIEGEL ONLINE
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But will mankind ever even travel to Mars? At this stage, space travel europhoria is a thing of the past and many industrialized countries are too heavily indebted to even think about sending astronauts on interplanetary expeditions.

Foto: AP/ NASA
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An artist's impression of the Mars probe, Curiosity. The machine is due to land this August, but that's it for now. The US recently withdrew from a planned joint trans-Atlantic Mars mission.

Foto: NASA/ JPL-Caltech
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