O European Space Agency conducts tests on robots, tools and communication equipment in Lanzarote that astronauts will use in a decade on the Moon, developed to bring to the 21st century the technology that was used almost half a century ago, in the lasts Apollo missions.
A team of scientists, heads of mission and European astronauts trained for two weeks in the Tinguatón volcano (on the Spanish island of Lanzarote) how they would behave on a mission to explore the Moon, a goal of NASA and ESA, which plans to return to the satellite together within a decade.
This one is the third consecutive year in Lanzarote of the "Pangea" program of the European Space Agency, which until now has taken advantage of the landscape of Lanzarote as analogous to the design, in a much longer term, mineral recognition techniques and search for signs of life (present or past) on Mars.
However, ESA has reoriented this type of training to the Moon in the first place because it is an objective already in the planning of the international agencies with which it collaborates and secondly becauseBecause of the technology that may one day lead to Mars, you will need to test it first on the Moon.
Those plans collide, among other difficulties, that the latest lunar exploration technology put into testing under real conditions was left in 1972, in the Apollo XVII mission, the last that took a human to the surface of the satellite. And now, testing new systems in the lab is impractical, because to get very reliable results you need to be on the Moon … or almost.
"It is very difficult to find a spot with lunar characteristics on Earth. In Lanzarote we have some very important, like this one of Tinguatón. Like here, on the Moon there are basaltic and pyroclastic lavas and a very similar composition"he explains to Efe the Italian geologist Franceso Sauro, scientific director of the "Pangea" project for training in terrestrial analogues.
A team of scientists, heads of mission and astronauts trains in Lanzarote. (Photo: EFE)
The coordinator of the team that moves ESA to Lanzarote every year, his compatriot Loredana Bessone, specifies that the return to the Moon will not be addressed, probably directly with the astronauts, but that the first exploration robots will be sent to perform the first tasks and prepare the ground.
Nowadays, the ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer He not only worked on volcanoes with updated tools of the Apollo era, but also trained in the handling of remote vehicles. From the Canary Islands, he directed one that operated in Holland.
Indeed, says Maurer, it is a preview of the almost definitive test with this type of robots that will be done in 2019, when one of his ESA or NASA colleagues manages, from the International Space Station, a rover located on the lapilli fields that surround the Timanfaya National Park.
By the way, the German astronaut did a discovery as useful as it is unexpected: the costume with whom you work outside the spaceship and with whom you have trained in Lanzarote Not suitable.
The rocks of the island, very similar to the moles, his gloves were torn. If this had happened on a real mission, he warns, the astronaut in question would be in danger.
Matthias Maurer also explains what it means to return to the Moon: among others, he says, get to know the Earth better, but nobody forgets that the big space agencies want to go to Mars in this century, something unviable at this time.